Two of the most senior county councillors have called for an urgent meeting with Highways England over its A27 improvement project.
Leader Louise Goldsmith and John O’Brien, cabinet member for highways and transport, want to meet with Highways bosses to discuss ‘drawbacks’ in the scheme, and to express ‘the strength of feeling locally’ over options, including a northern bypass, which were dropped ahead of the consultation.
The official public consultation on the five proposed options closes tonight, at 11.45pm. To give your views online click here
It its official response to the multi-million-pound scheme, released in a statement on Wednesday, September 21, West Sussex County Council stated that it ‘does not favour any one particular option, but instead technically assesses each of their merits and drawbacks.
Mr O’Brien said: “Of course we welcome this consultation on options.
“We have called for many years for improvements to be made to the A27 and it is positive to finally be in a position where the community has their say on a range of proposals.
“However, Highways England and the Secretary of State for Transport must choose a scheme that delivers crucial improvements with minimal impact on our
environment and communities.
“All the options put forward have the potential to improve the A27 to some degree, but all have drawbacks as well.”
Last week, the council’s environmental and community services select committee recommended that Highways England should look again at other options that were discounted before the consultation, which included two options for a highly contentious northern bypass through Lavant.
In his foreword as part of the council’s official response to Highways, Mr O’Brien said: “The manner in which these (other) options were withdrawn in March 2016 has contributed to a strength of feeling locally that this action was premature and that alternative options, that may fully meet the strategic objectives (set by Highways England for the scheme), have been dismissed without good reason.
“Therefore, before making a recommendation to the Secretary of State, Highways England should satisfy themselves that they have not discounted
options that would perform better against the strategic objectives for the scheme.”
Mr O’Brien and Mrs Goldsmith ‘will now seek an urgent meeting with Highways England where they can put the concerns of local residents to senior representatives’, a statement said.
Mrs Goldsmith added: “I do not underestimate the strength of feeling that these options put forward by Highways England have been met with among our communities.
“Of course we want investment in this road and we want to see improvements made to it but whatever scheme is progressed has to be the right one for Chichester.
“Many people have sent their views and concerns to the council over the last few months and John and I will now raise these all personally with Highways England.
“We are not involved in the decision making – that’s for Highways England and the Transport Minister - but we are here to represent the interests of our residents and ensure we do all we can to see that the right thing is done by our county.
“We are asking for an urgent meeting to discuss with Highways England all the issues that have come to light as part of this Highways England consultation process.”
The Secretary of State for Transport is expected to announce the preferred option in late 2016.