District council backs new northern bypass as preferred option for A27

Aerial view of the A27
Aerial view of the A27

A new mitigated northern bypass has been backed by the majority of Chichester district councillors as a preferred option for the A27 at Chichester.

The Build a Better A27 group employed consultants Systra to come up with conceptual ideas as it looks to secure Government funding for improvements.

Two options were identified: a mitigated northern route and a full southern route upgrading the existing A27 junctions.

Today Chichester District Council agreed, by 22 votes to 17, to write to Highways England stating its preferred option is a mitigated northern route, subject to measures making it acceptable in environmental terms, while also requesting the full southern route be explored as a reasonable alternative.

Earlier in the day the council’s cabinet had supported a different approach where the authority would have backed improvements without stating a preference for either option.

CDC’s agreed approach mirrors the one taken by West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for highways and infrastructure Bob Lanzer announced earlier this week.

A mitigated northern route would see a new ‘off-line’ dual carriageway route to the north of Chichester between a point west of the Fishbourne junction and a point east of the Portfield junction.

Meanwhile the full southern route would see improvements to six junctions on the existing A27 Chichester bypass, including underpasses at Fishbourne and Stockbridge, flyovers at Whyke and Bognor, and a flyover and junction remodelling at Portfield.

At the start of the council debate Tony Dignum, leader of the district council, said: “I suggest we need to know more facts before we can make a choice of northern or southern concepts and only Highways England can provide the information we need. We should therefore ask Highways England to fully evaluate both concepts equally and give us their analysis as soon as possible.”

This work could be completed as soon as early autumn.

But Roger Barrow, cabinet member for residents services, proposed an amendment to the original cabinet recommendation to state no preference.

He said: “I’m not suggesting we make a single choice. I think that would be wrong, but I would like this council to indicate a preference for the northern route with a full detailed assessment of the southern option for further consideration.”

Andrew Shaxson (Ind, Harting) described how there was no perfect solution but there was a clear ‘imperfect one’ and this was the one agreed by cabinet members.

He said: “It fails to address reality and show leadership.”

But Peter Budge (Con, Chichester North) said: “When we have got all the information and detailed information I think we can make a decision on that. Until then I will support the original motion.”

Mark Dunn (Con, Westbourne) added: “We must not try and act above our pay grade and tell the Secretary of State and Highways England what to do.”

Carol Purnell (Con, Selsey North) said: “The one thing we have got to ensure is the northern option does not get pulled as it was last time.”

Responding to this point Philippa Hardwick (Con, Fernhurst) said: “It seems any steer or preference is akin to us trying to pull the southern route.”

She argued there was ‘not enough detail’ about the routes at this stage to make a decision on a preferred option.

Adrian Moss (LDem, Fishbbourne), leader of the Lib Dem group, suggested both options be worked up by Highways England as Chichester needed an improved A27, but described how a mitigated northern route is ‘just about acceptable but it must be very green, it must be innovative and it must lead the way for the future of any road building’.

He added: “If though there is any chance that Highways England will not deliver a mitigated northern route then a northern route is just not acceptable.”

He called for a sustainable infrastructure group to be set up to ensure a future scheme is fit for the future and embraces new transport solutions.

Richard Plowman (LDem, Chichester West) described how the Goodwood Motor Circuit Consultative Committee was opposed to the northern route while others had raised concerns it would become the new settlement boundary and lead to more housing development north of the city.

Mike Hall (Con, Lavant) raised the effect of a new northern route on the national park, but Simon Oakley (Con, Tangmere) suggested neither the national park nor the Goodwood estate had ‘show stopping arguments’ against a new bypass.

Pam Dignum (Con, Chichester South) backed the approach of selecting no preferred option at this stage. She explained: “It’s important to make people in all parts feel their voice is actually heard.”

But Jonathan Brown (LDem, Southbourne) called the northern route a ‘no-brainer’ from an engineering and deliverability point of view and argued the estimated five-year construction time for a full southern route would be fatal for a number of communities and businesses south of the A27.

A number of questions were asked by members of the public at the start of Friday’s meeting.

Catherine Ward-Penny argued that if a northern route was built ‘Chichester people and visitors will regret it forever’.

Richard Bramall, from the Summersdale Residents Association Committee, said they opposed the ‘ecological vandalism’ that would result from building a second A27 bypass to the north of the city.

He called the Lavant valley one of southern England’s ‘most important landmarks and a vitally important recreational, environmental, ecological, cultural and historical link through the downs and national park directly to Chichester’.

But Linda Boize asked if proposed flyovers and sliproads proposed for the full southern route would require even more land and if the engineering challenges could be overcome.

Mike Dicker suggested the construction period for the full southern route would be the death of the tourism industry and other fragile commerce in the Manhood peninsula and elsewhere in Chichester.

James Pickford, chairman of Lavant Parish Council, suggested if a mitigated northern route was taken forward its budget would be too high to be included in the next round of Government funding for road improvements.

Meanwhile Heather McDougall highlighted poor air quality at the Stockbridge roundabout and while the north concept ‘may be undesirable’ due to the impact on the countryside, she felt there were documented mitigations that could be put in place.

She added: “However the opportunities to mitigate the air pollution for an online solution are limited.”

Vote on Mr Barrow’s amendment:

For (22): Graeme Barrett (Ind, West Wittering), Roger Barrow (Con, Selsey South), Jonathan Brown (LDem, Southbourne), Andy Collins (Con, Bosham), John W Elliott (Con, Selsey South), Nigel Galloway (Con, Chichester South), Elizabeth Hamilton (Con, West Wittering), Bob Hayes (Con, Southbourne), Graham Hicks (Con, Southbourne), Les Hixson (Con, Chichester East), Jane Kilby (Con, Chichester East), Len Macey (Con, Chichester South), Keith Martin (Con, East Wittering), Steve Morley (Ind, Midhurst), Kate O’Kelly (LDem, Rogate), Simon Oakley (Con, Tangmere), Christopher Page (Con, North Mundham), Carol Purnell (Con, Selsey North), Josef Ransley (Con, Wisborough Green), Andrew Shaxson (Ind, Harting), Tricia Tull (Con, Sidlesham), Darren Wakeham (Con, Selsey North).

Against (17): Clare Apel (LDem, Chichester West), Peter Budge (Con, Chichester North), John Connor (Con, Selsey North), Tony Dignum (Con, Chichester North), Pam Dignum (Con, Chichester South), Mark Dunn (Con, Westbourne), Norma Graves (Con, Fernhurst), Mike Hall (Con, Lavant), Philippa Hardwick (Con, Fernhurst), Francis Hobbs (Con, Easebourne), Eileen Lintill (Con, Petworth), Gordon McAra (Ind, Midhurst), Caroline Neville (Con, Stedham), Richard Plowman (LDem, Chichester West), Henry Potter (Con, Boxgrove), Nick Thomas (Con, Plaistow), Peter Wilding (Con, Plaistow).

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