Arundel bypass must be kept on the agenda
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has joined with local business and community leaders to renew pressure for an Arundel bypass, which they say is essential to protect the environment and boost the West Sussex economy.
The MP convened a meeting on Friday 27 May with local councillors and business organisations to discuss the continuing need for the bypass.
The meeting, which was held at Arun District Council's civic centre in Littlehampton, was attended by 20 people representing Arun District Council, West Sussex County Council, Horsham District Council, Arundel Town Council and Sussex Enterprise.
At rush hour in the morning and afternoon during weekdays traffic is severely held up on the A27 which is single carriage through Arundel, while at weekends in the summer the road can be equally congested.
Representatives were realistic about the economic situation, but there was a strong feeling that the bypass could not be allowed to slip off the agenda.
The bypass was placed in the roads programme in 1996 but was removed by the then Transport Secretary, Alastair Darling, in 2003. Local representatives have fought for the bypass to be pushed up the agenda ever since then.
The meeting unanimously backed the long-proposed 'pink blue' route for a full bypass of the town. There was strong and united opposition to proposals for a so-called 'online' road improvement along part of the A27 and the existing town bypass. Although this was a cheaper option than an offline bypass, it was felt that it would be intrusive and cut the town even more in two than currently the case.
Councillors representing villages such as Storrington and Amberley pointed out the excessive traffic, congestion and air quality issues caused by rat-running through the Downs and the National Park as drivers sought to avoid going through Arundel on the A27.
Earlier this year, West Sussex County Council published their new 15-year Transport Plan which put improvements to the A27 as one of its top priorities, as well as aiming for a bypass at Arundel.
In March Mr Herbert joined Worthing MPs Sir Peter Bottomley and Tim Loughton in a meeting with the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, to raise the case for improvements to the A27. And in February the Roads Minister, Mike Penning, was driven along the road to see the problems for himself.
Mark Froud, Chief Executive of Sussex Enterprise, said: "We have campaigned heavily over the years for improvements to the A27 at Arundel, as we believe that alleviating congestion along this route is paramount.
"The problem of congestion along this stretch of road and its negative impact on businesses still exists and will not go away until the necessary work is carried out.
"We welcome and support the renewed pressure by Nick Herbert MP and other leaders to keep a bypass at Arundel firmly on the Government's agenda."
Lionel Barnard, Deputy Leader of West Sussex County Council who has responsibility for Transport, Planning and Highways, said: "West Sussex County Council is pleased that Nick Herbert has called for more action for the Arundel section of this vital road and will support his efforts to keep this on the agenda."
Ian Sumnall, Chief Executive of Arun District Council, said: "It is vital to keep this important issue at the top of the agenda. The need for an Arundel bypass comes up time and time again not just among our business and tourism community but our local residents and those who visit our district.
"It's something this Council has lobbied for some time now and we will continue our fight for improvements to this road network which we consider absolutely vital to the economic health and future of our district."
Nick Herbert commented: "There remains a strong environmental and economic case for an Arundel bypass. Rat-running through Arundel and the Downland villages is very damaging, and the local economy is harmed by such a poor road link. The A27 should be a coastal highway, but too often it's a coastal car park.
"We all understand the current restraints on public spending, but we want to keep the Arundel bypass on the agenda so that when the time comes the need is recognised."
The MP added: "By bringing together representatives from local councils and business, we are ensuring that we make a united and coherent case for action."
Notes for Editors
1. West Sussex County Council's 15-year Transport Plan can be viewed at http://www.westsussex.gov.uk/your_council/plans_projects_reports_and/plans/west_sussex_transport_plan/west_sussex_transport_plan1.aspx