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Highways England finalise plans to create a by-pass through ancient woodland

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It's one of the south coast's worst bottlenecks- the A27 at Arundel in West Sussex- and a headache for nearly 30,000 drivers every day.

Today, (11/05) Highways England announced its solution- a by-pass which would cut through an area of ancient woodland.

The decision has prompted anger from many local residents, who say they'll keep fighting.

Three options had been on the table, all involving new dual carriageways on the southern fringe of the town.

The government's preferred route - option 5a - would see a dual carriageway through Binsted Woods and the South Downs, close to the village of Binsted, and rejoining the A27 near Yapton Lane.

Watch the full report by Richard Slee:

Highways England say the four-mile dual carriageway will complete a missing link in the A27 and could save commuters more than an hour and a half every week.

It will draw traffic away from Arundel town centre and reduce rat-running on minor roads through the South Downs National Park, while keeping the impact on protected environments like ancient woodland to an absolute minimum.

Alan Feist, Highways England A27 programme lead said ''These ambitious plans will fill in a missing link on the A27, improving 21,000 journeys every day for drivers from Arundel and beyond.''

Nearly 10,000 people took part in the consultation, and today’s announcement reflects their views and feedback. We will continue to work with people and take their views into account as we further develop the project’s design so we can deliver a project that successfully improves journeys, respects the environment and helps to enhance the historic town of Arundel.

– Alan Feist, Highways England A27 programme lead
Detailed look at the option 5A plan Credit: Highways England

However, Arundel Bypass Neighbourhood Committee are in outrage over the finalised plans after months of protesting.

Campaigners have vowed they will fight today’s decision by Highways England to build a bypass across the South Downs National Park and through ancient woodland and villages near Arundel.

“This road scheme would wreak an incredible trail of destruction,” says Secretary Emma Tristram.

It would destroy part of the South Downs National Park, decimate ancient and ecologically important woodland, and devastate the two historic villages of Binsted and Tortington. It would also lead to a huge increase of traffic in Walberton, particularly on the semi-rural road, already at capacity, which leads to the new junction. The fight against this extraordinarily damaging road scheme has only just begun!

– Emma Tristram, Secretary ABNC
Arundel Bypass Neighbourhood Committee protesting in 2017 Credit: ITV Meridian

Highways England benefits to the by-pass

Three options were put to the public for views between August and October last year, and today’s announcement considers feedback made during the consultation and ongoing discussions with key stakeholders.

The plans also include improved routes for pedestrians and cyclists, including a continuous dedicated path along the existing road around Arundel.

As well as improving journey times, the plans will:

  • Make journeys safer - the A27 at Arundel has an above average collision rate, with 14 casualties on the road in 2016. The improvements will make journeys safer, and over the next 60 years there will be 177 fewer accidents than there otherwise would have been
  • Reduce congestion the existing A27 through Arundel is operating at up to 150% capacity, with around 21,000 vehicles use the A27 through on a daily basis, this is predicted to increase to 26,300 in 2041
  • Support economic growth – businesses across the region will benefit from efficiencies and improved journey times, while the additional capacity will enable the authorities to better manage population growth

The consultation ran for eight weeks last year. 2,062 people attended the exhibitions, with nearly 3,000 people completing a questionnaire.

7,000
Responses were received by email or letter.
79%
People responded through the questionnaire agreed that improvements are needed
48%
Supported Option 5a- more than either of the alternatives
Binsted Woods and the South Downs Credit: ITV Meridian

But again, campaigners aren't happy, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England- Sussex Branch, have said the decision sacrifices Sussex for a ‘traffic jam sandwich.'

Kia Trainor- CPRE Director says, “This decision does not fully take into account the enormous damage to irreplaceable habitats including ancient woodland which this new road would create."

We are very concerned that the countryside is being sacrificed in order to move a traffic jam further along the A27. What we need is a more strategic approach to transport infrastructure. We see a role for the new South East Regional Transport Body in helping put together an integrated approach to mobility instead of constantly building bypasses of our bypasses.

– Kia Trainor- CPRE Director