Press release 4 January 2019
A27 Alliance says that WSCC is solely responsible for the loss of £280 m government funding for upgrading the A27
The A27 Alliance which is a group of representatives from Parish Councils, resident associations, campaign groups, as well as professional individuals was formed recently with the objective of getting the best bypass solution for Chichester,
The Alliance believes that it is important for the Chichester community to understand that BABA27 (the community consultation group) had absolutely nothing to do with promoting either of the options put forward to Highways England by Louise Goldsmith, leader of WSCC and other local politicians. In addition, WSCC’s suggestion that a vote was taken by BABA27 to reject the previous investment is a fabrication: no vote was ever taken (community representatives were asked to provide a steer, not a vote), and this is nothing more than political spin to cover WSCC’s own shortcomings.
The promotion of unrealistic and unaffordable options, and the rejection of £280m of central Government funding in 2017, were both entirely the responsibility of the WSCC leadership.
Ever since the Highways England 2016 Consultation (to which WSCC was a party through its involvement as Key Stakeholder) it has been clear that the work done by Highways England did not fit the aspirations of WSCC’s leadership – to build a new road to the north of Chichester. Hence WSCC has continued to refer to that consultation as ‘flawed’. However, nothing could be as flawed as the options promoted by WSCC in July 2018. These were characterised by lack of any evidence from the BABA27 process that a consensus had been achieved and their decision to ignore the results of their own survey that found a majority in favour of an upgrade of the existing route.
At no time has WSCC been realistic about the constraints of funding, policy, sustainability or engineering challenges, and it is therefore no surprise that WSCC’s unfounded preferences which were high risk have been found by Highways England to be unworkable and unaffordable.
For the avoidance of doubt, Gillian Kegan was clear in her various comments to the BABA27 group that there was unlikely to be any funding that exceeded the previous allocation of £250m. This advice was ignored by the leaders of WSCC who sought to promote a scheme that they were advised would cost more than £400m with no additional benefits. They further ignored advice from Highways England that a northern route had almost no probability of success yet sought to promote this as their preferred option.
The majority of Chichester residents wish to work constructively with Highways England to develop a solution to upgrade the existing junctions as set out in WSCC’s own Transport Policy. By failing to follow their own policy, going against clear advice and ignoring the constraints of the project, they have condemned Chichester and those who use the surrounding roads to many more years of congestion.
This congestion will be worsened by the piecemeal minor junction improvements that will form part of the CDC local plan, the only alternative after rejecting a major scheme funded by central Government. These minor improvements will simply mitigate the impact of development rather than solve the problem, and as they will be funded by development over the plan period, will most probably result in roadworks along the A27 for some 10 years. When Chichester is finally successful in a realistic bid for a major scheme the roadworks and congestion will start again and the minor improvements, estimated at around £60m (which could otherwise have been spent on community infrastructure projects) will be replaced.
WSCC has spent £100,000 of public money employing consultants to develop options that were immediately rejected. This is an irresponsible waste of public money at a time when funding for public services is being cut. The question has to be asked what WSCC feel they have achieved in this process other than losing £280m of funding and raising expectations among residents.
This project is too important to be left to the politicians who have failed to move it forward and have instead set it back by many years. We believe that WSCC need to step aside immediately to enable Highways England to proceed with a further (non-statutory) consultation to develop a scheme that is workable and affordable.
It is time a sense of reality is brought to the table and expectations are managed.