Monday 24th July, a combined business and community workshop was organised by the County to continue building the local case to retain the Highways England funding package for improvements to the A27. A somewhat whimsical meeting to start with, the assembly was to discover by the end that Highways England had imposed an early deadline of mid-September concerning how the money could be saved for Chichester following the cancellation of the project by the secretary of State. Suddenly it felt like re-arranging the chairs on the Titanic.
The first bombshell
revealed the content of a 7th July meeting between HE and our local Councils in which the Northern route was clearly excluded as an option and that online the previous southern route options were available. The second bombshell
was a speech by the leader of the CDC which broke ranks with the WSCC and was based on his notes of the meeting. A CDC press release was then apparently sent out and this
appeared on the Spirit FM site – with a useful reminder of Option Two in the shape of the HE simulation we had all seen at the open consultation in 2016.
Whilst the A27 is not of direct interest to our street, the Fishbourne roundabout will certainly dump a lot of traffic into Chichester as three of the five current exits for the A27 into the City would be blocked off. A WGRA position may have to be made clear before the whole edifice collapses and the Committee has discussed this. The stay of execution does however offer opportunities for some proper joined-up thinking between various major projects that are being missed in separated discussions. These should link the improvements to the A27 to the plans for the Southern Gateway and the proposals of the County Road Audit – you know, the one which closes the car parks – and which still remains to be consulted on by the wider community.
These several issues are ones about which we could express a holistic opinion and there is one more, The Chichester Vision. This needs to be part of this whole discussion and that final document is also being published very soon. Its appearance will further widen the remit from the Southern Gateway and the A27 to pull in both the Eastern and Northern gateways to the City, coupled with such issues as way-finding to help visitors find their way round the City if they can get here. There is also a plan to open out the Cathedral Green on West Street and you will have noticed the disappearance of two trees on that site this week.
The main problem with this is that all these consultations will be online, including the A27 one, which means that the Councils avoid having to process responses that are not in the Q&A format, given their shortages of staff. So it serves no point us all writing in a long letter as there is no-one to read it or integrate to as a response.
It’s all a bit of an impasse but someone should be calling for better leadership. Could that be us?