A27 project ‘nothing more than popularity contest’, group says

The community-led scheme has to be submitted by May/June for the next round of government roads funding
The community-led scheme has to be submitted by May/June for the next round of government roads funding

An A27 campaign group says it has ‘lost confidence’ in the Build a Better A27 group to find a solution for Chichester.

Chichester Deserves Better (CDB) is accusing the process of ‘becoming a popularity contest’ and likens its survey of long list options to improve the A27 as ‘nothing more than a public vote on the X-Factor’.

The Build a Better A27 (BABA27) group was set up by West Sussex County Council following the collapse of Highways England’s official project for Chichester, and for just over a year around 80 council leaders, MP Gillian Keegan and campaign groups including CDB have been working together on a community-led scheme.

Following the publication of consultant Systra’s ‘long list’ of initial options and the county council’s Your Say survey in the Observer series of newspapers and online, a spokesman for CDB said members could not believe that the public was now being asked to consider the latest options when ‘so little information had been provided’.

Chichester Deserves Better was set up in 2015 to oppose a potential northern bypass between Chichester and Lavant, arguing instead for upgrades to the current 3.5 mile stretch.

A CDB spokesman said: “The best solution is not necessarily the one that gains the most votes.

“Decisions should be based on information and solid evidence, none of which we have so far.

“At present what we have is a list of possible solutions that clearly fall in to two camps, north or south, and people are being asked to vote on whether they support them or not.

“This is fine for TV game shows but not for developing the best solution for the Chichester area, and one which will win the support of central government funding.

“Of most concern is the fact we are trying to find the best solution to the problem of the A27, not the most popular one.

“The best solution for Chichester has to consider so much, problems such as air quality, noise, environmental impact and visual blight need to be weighed against cost, benefits and other factors.”

CDB argues that with no maps of the routes, costing or traffic data published it is ‘absolutely impossible to make an informed decision’ on which is best.

You can read WSCC answering some of the key questions on the scheme here: https://www.chichester.co.uk/news/transport/a27-suggestions-your-questions-answered-1-8427237

The group also says that, with Highways England shown to have spent more than £3m on its failed scheme, the amount just short of £100,000 WSCC paid consultants Systra ‘buys next to nothing in road building’.

The Observer has approached the county council for comment.

For a timeline of the troubled Chichester project click here: https://www.chichester.co.uk/news/a27-timeline-a-stop-start-saga-1-8416783