What is happening?
The Government has recognised that the traffic congestion on the A27 around Chichester must be fixed and Highways England have been tasked with finding a solution. They are currently reviewing options and will present these for public comment in Spring 2016 before selecting a preferred option in the Summer.
What options are Highways England looking at?
There are currently 7 options under review which include improvements to the existing, a mixture of improvements to the existing and some new link roads and an entirely new dual carriageway to the north of the City
We have heard talk before about improving the road and it never happened, why is this time any different?
For many years the A27 has been known to be a problem, previous reviews have found that the solution was to upgrade the existing junctions but when costed it was simply unaffordable. The current government however has included upgrades to the A27 junctions within its Road investments strategy and has committed the money to carry out the works. This is a significant move and makes it highly likely that an improvement project will finally be carried out.
What is the problem with the A27?
The A27 was originally built as a dual carriageway but it is unlike most dual carriageways in that it is used by significantly more local traffic than through traffic. Every report has concluded that the road itself is well within capacity but that the number of junctions and their close proximity is the problem. It is the junctions that are over capacity and need to be fixed and not the road.
Won’t a new bypass remove this through traffic and fix the problem?
The simple answer is NO. A detailed study in 2005 concluded that only 20% of the traffic was through traffic, a 2014 project review suggested it was between 20% and 40%. The up to date figure will be clarified by Highways England when the public consultation starts but given that a 2013 WSCC report concluded that all but one of the junctions was at around 130% of capacity by 2026, it is clear that even removing 40% of the traffic from the road will put the junctions at just under full capacity again.
Will a new bypass improve the safety of the road?
A project review carried out by the Highways Agency in May 2014 confirmed that: 'The accident rate for the bypass is higher than the national average for the type of road; for the period June 2004 to May 2008, the 185 slight, 21 serious and 3 fatal accidents reported in the vicinity of the bypass were 2.5 times the national average.' A new bypass WON’T address the safety issue on the existing road. The issue is NOT the volume of traffic but the proximity and number of junctions, something that won’t change by building a new bypass.
Who will pay to carry out upgrades to the existing route if Highways England finance the Northern route?
To think that the existing road will never need to be upgraded if a new bypass is built is unquestionably short sighted. The statistics show it would be near capacity in 10 years EVEN WITH a new bypass and none of the safety issues will have been addressed.
The existing road will be declassified and will become the responsibility of W.S.C.C. The upgrade work has previously been costed at in excess of £40m. The West Sussex Highways budget for the whole county is around £40m per year so it is unlikely the upgrades would ever be affordable. Building a new bypass will leave Chichester with a dangerous and congested local road with no funds to address the problem.
Are Developer contributions a reliable way of financing the road upgrades?
Chichester District Council have costed improvements to the existing road, purely to ensure the road does not get worse at around £13m. This is not to make the road any better but is designed to have a neutral impact and retain the status quo. They will “tax” new development to finance road improvements, but legal agreements are in any case often negotiable and so this is an unreliable system.
Their policy is to use developer contributions toward Highways England’s major scheme should it go ahead and so it is possible that if a new bypass is built all this funding will be allocated to the new bypass.
When is the public Consultation?
The public consultation will begin in March 2016, as yet dates are unconfirmed but we believe it to be starting around mid-March and lasting for a period of 7 weeks.
What will happen at the Public Consultation?
We understand that there will be a number of public exhibitions at village halls where you will be able to see details of the schemes, as well as online surveys. Details will be advertised in the local press closer to the time.
Will a new bypass unlock more land for development to the north of the city?
A new bypass will create a natural boundary which will become susceptible to development. This includes many areas that are currently recreational land and agricultural fields and that would be unlikely to be developed in the short term.
Chichester has a local plan which has earmarked land for development for the next 15 years but a review for the next local plan commences soon and Chichester is likely to be required to find a further 6,000 – 7,000 houses and further commercial estates, and a new development boundary will make this land easy pickings. In fact a large developer has already approached a land owner about buying around 30 acres of their land for this very purpose on the basis of a new bypass being a very real option.
Will a new bypass help the local Chichester economy?
It is hard to see how it will benefit the local economy in any way. A new bypass may have some positive impact on the wider West Sussex and South coast economies by driving commercial traffic along the coats but this will do little to enhance the local economy of the City and local villages.
Chichester has a large tourist economy, The Manhood Peninsula, and in particular West Wittering and Chichester Harbour, contribute significantly to the economy of the area. A new bypass will not serve any of this traffic which will all use the existing unimproved road.
Goodwood is another major local contributor to the economy (annually in the region of £240m) and a new bypass would, in their own words, ‘put much, if not all, of that at risk’
Where has the idea of a Northern Bypass come from?
A northern bypass has been looked at a number of times in previous reviews, it has always been discounted and in the latest 2014 project review it was considered to ‘not be defendable’ and ‘not viable’. The report also concluded that even if a new bypass were built 4 of the existing junctions would still need improvement.
Its inclusion therefore is somewhat of a shock and goes against every report to date. The concern is that Highways England have a brief to deliver for strategic traffic and not to help local traffic and that they have been lobbied by county wide enterprise bodies to seriously reconsider the option.
Which route is cheaper?
The construction costs are likely to be published as part of the public consultation in March. It is difficult to understand how six junction improvements would be more expensive than an entirely new road with two connections, between 9 and 14 crossings of existing local roads and a grade separated junction on the A286 at Lavant.
Construction costs are not the full picture, in any exercise the costs need to account for loss of income to the local economy by not addressing local roads and damage to the environment, the National Park and the tourist industry. It is simply impossible to see the real cost of a new bypass being preferable to improvements to the existing road.
Will a new bypass help with the tourist traffic in the summer?
Chichester has a large tourism economy with a large contribution from the Manhood peninsula, in particular Chicheter Harbour and West Wittering Beach. There is a single road that serves these key sites and links back up to the A27 at the Stockbridge roundabout.
Many residents that live to the south of the A27 find themselves trapped during a good part of the summer months as this road becomes congested.
A new bypass will do nothing to improve this road or to help manage the junction with the A27 to mitigate the impact of the tourist traffic. Conversely a series of upgrades to the existing junctions will help manage the flow of this traffic and options which include a link road would provide an alternative route for traffic.
Will a new bypass mean that Chichester can avoid disruptive road works on the existing road?
The Simple answer is no. Further detail is given on our web page - An undisruptive approach?
Would a northern route be in a cutting and so not be visible or audible?
We wait to see the final published options at the public consultation but our initial observations are:
A junction on the A286 would need to be above the River Lavant and therefore at or above the existing ground level so a cutting would not be possible
The land required either side of the road for a cutting is significantly greater than at grade therefore even if some of the road is in a cutting it will be hugely more damaging to the countryside and will cut further in to the National Park.
A cutting would capture the water run-off from the Downs creating drainage/flooding difficulties from an additional area of hard surfacing
The noise would not be diminished from an elevated position on the Downs.
Does it really matter, so long as routes are just outside or only just inside the National Park boundary?
The proposed road will almost definitely crosses in to the southern boundary of the South Downs National Park. Even if it just skirts the edge of the park it is contrary to Government policy. This is explored further on our web page – ‘Impact on the National Park’
Is this a case of North vs South?
No – we have always tried to avoid this being a north vs south issue. Our Map plotting the locations of people that have signed our petition clearly show that there are people from north, south, east and west of the City. This is an issue that affects everyone.
For those businesses and people living on the Manhood peninsula it is vital that a proper programme of upgrades and improvements to the junctions along the existing road are carried out.
The Manhood peninsula needs an improved infrastructure; this will help it to properly manage any development. It will allow businesses to grow and people to invest. Removing the congestion barrier created by the current poorly functioning junctions will make it a more desirable place to live and will help redress the balance in property values between north and south.
More detail of the benefits of upgrading the existing A27 are on our web page - 'Why a Northern Bypass is not in the best interests of people living to the South of Chichester'