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A27 Chichester study criticised: lacks sustainable transport measures

A27 Chichester study criticised: lacks sustainable transport measures © David Howard

A recent ‘Build a Better A27’ report by transport consultants Systra, has been criticised by concerned community and environmental groups for a lack of sustainable transport solutions. As a result of several workshops over the last year led by West Sussex County Council, and from public engagement exercises, Systra have put forward two possible options for improving the A27 at Chichester.

Mitigated North route:

  • a new strategic, dual carriageway route with a possible new junction at A286, with some local road closures.
  • potential negative aspects include impact on Goodwood, environment, land take, noise and air pollution.
  • conflict with the South Downs National Park
  • high mitigation costs

Full South route:

  • major work at 6 junctions, dual carriageway realignment with underpasses, flyovers.
  • land needed for slip roads, and canals may have to be moved
  • access difficulties and journey delays, and disruption during construction
  • impact on Chichester harbour AONB
  • significant mitigation necessary

Systra believe that the ‘Mitigated North’ route would provide the best long-term solution for Chichester. They claim that impacts on environment and business can be mitigated, but with a risk of policy compliance conflict. Their view is that the ‘Full South’ route would offer a medium to long term solution, is deliverable, but involves costly engineering. Systra suggest there is potential for complementary measures as part of the Chichester transport package to include pedestrian and cycle ways, and public transport improvements. However, they view such measures as only a part of improvements, and stress that ‘these measures would not be able to fully address all congestion, safety and wider issues’, and further funding would need to be sought.

The recommendations do not offer truly sustainable solutions. As Chris Todd from the Campaign for Better Transport said ‘…neither of the two options suggested will be acceptable to local communities and could both cause great harm…. A 21st century approach would be to look at what people need first and then work out how best to provide that need sustainably’. CBT say the northern bypass option would be harmful due to the impact on the South Downs National Park, and the second option south of Chichester is unpopular and poses technical difficulties. CBT calls for traffic levels to be reduced first, with measures such as improved infrastructure for bicycles, rail and buses, and then only after other possibilities are investigated, consider what road improvements are required.

CPRE Sussex also advocate an integrated transport system to encourage less car use, and object to the new road schemes due to damaging impact on countryside and the Chichester Harbour AONB, and to the National Park. In a letter to the ‘Build a Better A27’ team at WSCC in March 2018, Kia Trainor on behalf of CPRE Sussex Chichester Group, wrote “We believe that minimal measures to address the congestion coupled with modal interventions and smart technology for vehicles and traffic management, will provide a more sustainable solution that will be the most environmentally beneficial and will provide a future proof approach that will align with changing trends in how we move people.”

Systra’s report is based on community feedback from nearly 4000 responses in a public engagement process, which included the BABA27 community group and local businesses. Respondents were asked to give views on a range of topics. Where proposals for ‘online’ or current routes were concerned, underpasses and flyovers received the most support due to traffic flow and separation benefits, but landscape and conservation considerations should be part of the design. The Southern route option met with concern over disruption during construction, impact on landscape, cost of land and building, and fears that it would not offer a long-term solution. In response to possible new routes, there was slightly more support for the Northern route, respondents saying it would separate and improve traffic and be less disruptive. However, many were worried about negative environmental impacts, including air and noise pollution. Modal measures, such as walking, and cycling were well supported, as was the encouragement of education establishments and businesses to use other forms of transport. Key themes for consideration were identified from the feedback: through and local traffic; multi-modal transport; environmental factors; Chichester as a jewel of England; landscape and conservation; transport innovation and experiments; local and regional economy.

Following the report’s publication in May, various groups (Lavant, Boxgrove, Westhampnett Parish Councils, CPRE Sussex, Summersdale and West Broyle Residents Associations, and Summersdale A27 Action Group) sent an open letter to Members of West Sussex County Council, Chichester District Council and the MP for Chichester, to express their serious concerns. They point out that the proposals show a lack of consensus and only accentuate the north/south divide, stressing that a funding bid for RIS2 funding must be based on a solution which is financially viable and supports Chichester District Council’s local plan, and crucially, is likely to fit when assessed against national and local policies, and competing schemes. The Systra study states itself that the Northern road is likely to conflict with National Policy. (The National Policy Statement for National Networks (2014) makes it clear that new roads must not be built in National Parks unless there are exceptional circumstances). As evidence has shown, the groups warn that new roads create more traffic congestion, have minimal economic gain, and damage landscapes. They find the high risk Northern road option unacceptable on environmental grounds.

What next? Following further collection of stakeholder comments, there will be County and District Council meetings, and the WSCC Cabinet member will make a decision on 15th June.

To view or download the Systra report and other documents relating to A27 improvements see

A27 Roundabout photo © David Howard

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