Highways England (as the Agency is now called) have been given £250M to upgrade the five junctions of the A27 as it makes its way round the South side of Chichester. As part of that, active consideration is being given once again to the building of a new by-pass around the Northern side. Professional consultants have been asked to consider planning the proposed route which would include the entire east/west Express Way which will run far beyond the immediate Chichester area.
When the extension of the A27 between Chichester and Havant was finally proposed (it had been part of the Folkestone to Honiton trunk road on plans since the 1930s) there were some 4 suggested routes at least one of which went North.
A public enquiry was held where one of our residents represented a number of landowners at it. Apparently, as the enquiry proceeded, the feeling among the professionals involved was that the Inspector was in favour of the Northern route. Sadly he never completed his work because he was suddenly “taken ill”. The rumour was that there had been some pressure placed upon him. A second enquiry was held and the result was that the road as currently built was approved.
A Northern relief road around Chichester was rejected again in the early 90s not only on environmental grounds but also on figures produced by the Highways Agency itself that, since only 40% of the traffic on the A27 is though traffic, building a northern relief route would have little impact on the problems of congestion caused by the 60% of journeys using the road that were local – hopping on at one roundabout and exiting at the next as many of us do. These figures have been confirmed as actual from subsequent measurements of road use around Chichester.
Things have also shifted on the ground. The suggestion this time is that the new Northern route would start somewhere west of the Tesco roundabout and swing northward cutting through the fields to the north of the City that run between the edge of Summersdale and Lavant, through the recently rejected Daffodil site and continuing Eastward towards Westhampnett and join the A27 not far from the Goodwood motor racing course. Recently leaked diagrams show that as this is an expressway there would be only one junction. It is only one of six proposals of course, four of which are about changes to the current A27.
Against the proposal
From the Chichester Observer this past month , it is plain that people to the North of Chichester are mobilising with a threat that the road would be the end of Goodwood and that a reduction of 40% of the traffic using the southern route would not greatly benefit people to the south either.
If the route runs south of the Broyle Estate as one drawing shows, one supposes that the Whitehouse Farm developers are not going to want their development to be sliced in half by an express dual carriageway either, with all its attendant problems of noise, air quality and light pollution.
Negative impacts of this scheme would be to transfer these problems of noise, air quality and light pollution onto the very edge of the National Park with consequent detriment to the rural atmosphere of all the northern approaches into Chichester. The village of Lavant would be cut off from the City and it is likely that the road would form a new northern boundary, which would only encourage housing infill between it and the current northern boundaries of the City. Concern has been expressed at a recent Lavant Parish Council meeting and Sarah Sharp, one of our City Councillors for Chichester South, before her dreadful accident, was inviting comments and objections.
Yet, on the positive side for Westgate residents, such a road could well help solve the south and north access problems plaguing the Whitehouse Farm development currently and provide major relief from traffic impacts across Parklands Estate and along Westgate. The main sewer from the WHF site to the new Tangmere water treatment plant could be constructed at the same time to run along the same route, which would solve the water treatment problems presented by the current proposal.
Further, it is our understanding that companies such as Virgin Media would take advantage of this build to put in fibre optic cabling and so help the government meet its obligations to provide fast broadband to rural communities. Finally, such a road running past the Goodwood motor racing track could well offer much needed relief to the households around the site that find themselves held hostage to massive traffic jams during major events such as the Festival of Speed.
Residents will be pleased to learn that the WGRA Traffic Action Group is monitoring this situation as part of its responsibilities to the committee. Highways England will consult via public meetings in the Spring and our TAG will inform residents of any developments. The committee has also called an exceptional meeting of its members on February 3rd, with the single agenda item of a full discussion of all the traffic options now being bandied about concerning the WHF and Northern Bypass developments.
We are grateful to Brian Bird for additions and corrections to this post.