'Why a Northern Bypass is not in the best interests of people living to the South of Chichester'
A northern bypass will only take a small amount of traffic off the road, the significant majority of the traffic using the current A27 is local.
In 2004 The Highways Agency commissioned surveys (including the Chichester Area Transport Model) which showed that only 20% of traffic on the A27 was East-West transiting the City. This leaves 80% of the traffic on the A27 being local traffic.
As no further studies have shown otherwise we must assume this still to be the case. Indeed as part of that survey was conducted in March when there were no local agricultural traffic movements and no West Wittering beach visits one can assume the percentage of local traffic is probably even higher than 80%.
This is reiterated in a more recent publication by West Sussex County Council who state in their 2011-2026 Transport Plan:
‘At Chichester, high traffic levels are responsible for an AQMA [Air Quality Management Area]. A key problem is the conflict between high levels of A27 traffic and high levels of north-south traffic wishing to cross or join the A27. This leads to extensive peak period congestion and is made worse in the summer when tourist traffic adds to the problem. This congestion seriously impedes daily travel
(private and public transport) for the population of settlements to the south of the bypass throughout the year.’
Even if a northern bypass is constructed it will only provide limited short term relief. Improvements to the existing road will STILL be required.
The Highways Agency report on a public consultation exploring options to improve the A27 in 2005 ruled out a northern bypass for the simple fact that it would not provide a long term solution.
“Even with the reduced traffic along the existing bypass, it appears that four of the existing junctions would have inadequate capacity in the design year of 2025, and as such, would have a direct impact on delivery of the local transport proposals. Furthermore, many of the local and trunk road improvements would not complement each other, as the current proposals do.
This would also mean that in addition to the northern bypass, further improvement would need to be carried out to some of the junctions on the existing bypass as well. Traffic analysis showed that the Fishbourne and Bognor junctions would reach capacity before 2025 even with the through traffic taken out. As such, these junctions would require substantial improvements despite a northern route. The true extent of the improvements is unknown at this stage, but grade separation is highly likely.”
It is clear therefore that selecting a northern bypass instead of a substantial improvement of the existing road will simply NOT solve the problem!
A northern bypass will mean the existing road is declassified and becomes the responsibility of West Sussex County Council with no funding to improve it.
Highways England (Formerly the Highways Agency) are currently responsible for all trunk roads, the remainder of the road network is the responsibility of County Councils.
Should a new bypass be built it will mean the existing road is declassified and becomes the responsibility of West Sussex County Council. As has been stated in the research and publications above, the existing A27 will require considerable improvements even with a northern bypass. These improvements will come at a significant cost (it has been suggested that the improvements required could be up to £250 million) and will have to be funded by WSCC.
WSCC have a budget of between £40 and £45 million per year for highways and transport. This is not just for Chichester but for ALL roads and transport across the WHOLE County!
In the last month, Jeremy Hunt, WSCC cabinet member for finance, has publicly stated that the council have to make savings of £120 to £130 million. With a budget this stretched and the scope of works required to solve the A27 problem for local traffic it is simply highly unlikely to ever be financially viable.
A missed chance to improve the existing road will impose development on the area
Without a major series of improvements to the existing A27, a watered down series of minor improvements will need to be carried out to the junctions along the existing stretch between the Fishbourne and Bognor roundabouts.
Without money from Central Government or County this will have to be funded by developer contributions. This will give developers significant bargaining power when applying for new housing schemes both north and south of Chichester.
Any increased development locally will clearly bring with it more traffic and this will soon outweigh any reduction in traffic volumes provided by a northern bypass.
Within 10 – 15 years this short term solution will leave the traffic chaos back at square one.
The Events at Goodwood and other local tourism will be damaged, which will have a significant impact on the local economy.
It has been well documented that the two main events on the Goodwood Estate (The Festival of Speed and Revival) contribute significantly to the local economy, the latest figures suggest that they generate more than £100 million annually, £37 million of which is fed back directly in to the local area.
The majority of this money is spent on accommodation at hotels, bed and breakfasts and guest houses as well at restaurants and pubs, many of which are on the Manhood Peninsula and in coastal resorts such as Bognor Regis.
The National Park also attracts significant tourism to the region this feeds down to the wider area, again with increased demand for accommodation and places to eat. It also plays a part in the overall tourism offering of the area with nationally recognised institutions such as the Festival Theatre and Pallant House as well as the Beach at West Wittering, Sailing at Itchenor and the wildlife at Chichester and Pagham Harbours.
A northern bypass would be driven straight through the Goodwood Estate and would have a significant impact on the ability of Goodwood to hold its world renowned events. A bypass would also separate the City from the National Park by a road of motorway standards.
All of this will have a significant knock on impact on the economy of the wider area.
Without major improvements to the existing road any growth of the tourist industry will be stifled. With a significant increase in local traffic from major development planned over the next 15 years the road network that serves the tourist traffic for the Witterings, Itchenor and the harbours will have a reduced capacity. This could see reduced numbers of visitors’ long term and have a massive impact on the contribution that tourism makes to the local economy.
So what is the alternative?
The alternative is a lasting, long term solution on the ground, where the problem is, and not elsewhere!
Highways England are considering an alternative option to carry out significant junction improvements, likely to include grade separated junctions (flyovers) – this will allow the traffic on the A27 to flow whilst local traffic can cross or join the road freely.
This may well be considered to be a more expensive build in terms of construction costs but long term will be a far cheaper solution and more beneficial to the local community.
Of course any scheme to improve the existing road will have its drawbacks and we are well aware of these, the problems to be overcome would include:
Disruption and road works during the construction phase.
Potential for visual impact created by flyovers.
Realignment of some junctions for local traffic joining the dual carriageway.
These drawbacks are all surmountable and with a considered, well designed and well-structured scheme the impact can be managed and minimised.
The end result however will be a long term solution that will improve the flow of traffic for both passing and local traffic. It will change, for the better, the way the city and communities to the south function for generations to come.