Once again the MP for Arundel and South Downs, Mr Nick Herbert has intervened in the Chichester Bypass Improvement Scheme.
Last time it was to berate those that had the temerity to ask for a re-run of the consultation process as it could jeopardise Arundel’s chances of getting its own bypass.
Well congratulations Nick you need not have worried – you have just secured £350 million for your scheme and a proper bypass to boot, not an on-line ‘dogs’ breakfast’.
In your response to Mr Grayling’s bombshell you refer darkly to the serious cost of ‘negative political manoeuvring’ as being responsible for his decision.
Let me remind you that the driving force behind the objections to the five southern options offered by Highways England was grass roots opinion which was only latterly taken on board by both West Sussex County Council and Chichester District Council.
If you consider this public disquiet via letter writing, lobbying councillors and holding orderly demonstrations negative political manoeuvring then you have a very skewed and unflattering view of local democracy at work.
Rather than blame local councils for their conduct, Mr Grayling should be looking much nearer home, namely, Highways England and their part in this fiasco.
HE have totally failed the people of Chichester in their inept and ineffectual handling of the whole consultation process, have been less than open and transparent in their response to local councils and until the last few days, refused to publish the results of the consultation process.
Is it any wonder that local people have no faith in HE’s ability to come up with a sensible solution to Chichester’s chronic traffic problems? They are the problem not the solution.
I am totally at a loss to understand Mr Herbert’s assertion that the northern bypass is ‘unfeasible’. Previous work carried out be HE and its precursor the Highways Agency, has identified the northern route as not only feasible but offering the best long term solution to Chichester’s traffic problems. In January last year, seven options were proposed by HE but come March the two northern options were mysteriously removed.
A detailed analysis of all these seven options offered by HE in January last year against their own seven objectives which the bypass aims to achieve, showed the two northern options were superior in all cases. Also options 4 and 5, the two northern routes, would not need upgrading in the future unlike the southern Option 2 route.
If cost is an issue with options 4 and 5, then by omitting the interchange facility where the new road would cross the A286 at Lavant, these routes would come in at under £250 million.
In his response to Mr Grayling’s announcement, Chichester Council leader Mr Tony Dignum states that the Secretary of State has clarified at last that the Government would not agree to a northern route. Did I miss something in Mr Grayling’s letter or has he inadvertently let something slip that is not yet in the public domain?
There is absolutely nothing unfeasible about the northern routes.
Rather it is widely believed by many in Chichester who were hoping for a satisfactory resolution of its traffic problems, that powerful and unaccountable forces have stymied all attempts to get the northern options put back for consideration.
It is this lack of transparency and confidence in the consultation process that has precipitated this current situation and is where the negative political manoeuvring has occurred.