MP urges South Downs National Park Authority to take "balanced view" of Arundel bypass

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has urged the South Downs National Park Authority to take a “balanced view” of the benefits that an offline Arundel bypass will bring to the Park, saying that the new road could be described as the “South Downs National Park relief road”.

Mr Herbert, along with other members of the public, was allotted three minutes in which to make his case to South Downs National Park Authority Board on Thursday (19 October).  He said that the bypass would deliver environmental benefits to the National Park by taking away traffic that currently “rat-runs” through the South Downs, and he pointed to the Highways England figures which show a reduction in traffic of about a third on the A29 depending on the route that is chosen. 

The MP warned that the ‘do nothing’ option was “the worst option, and the most damaging to the South Downs National Park”, especially with increased levels of development proposed outside the Park which will add to traffic levels. 

The MP criticised the National Park Authority’s draft report on the three route options, arguing that it “casually dismisses these arguments and looks only at [one side of] the impact of the proposed bypass on the National Park, forgetting that the road already runs through the National Park at Arundel.”  

However, following a brief discussion during which members of the Authority’s Board differed over the merits of the bypass, they voted by a substantial majority to reject all three routes. 

Mr Herbert commented after the vote: “I don’t believe the Authority is taking a sensible approach, and they have simply dismissed the evidence from Highways England of the substantial reduction in traffic through the South Downs that an offline Arundel bypass would achieve. 

“I hope that, as discussions continue and when Highways England consult on their preferred route next year, the Authority will take a more evidence-led and balanced view.  They do not have a veto on the bypass, and simply rejecting it in the knowledge that traffic will continue to rat-run through the Park effectively means they are supporting the option that is most damaging to the South Downs.” 

ENDS 

Notes

   1.     To watch the webcast of the South Downs National Park Authority Board meeting see https://southdowns.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/313546.  Mr Herbert’s address begins at 28:30.

   2.     The agenda and papers for the meeting on 19 October can be found at https://www.southdowns.gov.uk/meeting/authority-meeting-19-october-2017/.

   3.     Transcript of Nick Herbert’s statement in full: 

“Chairman, members of the Authority, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to address you.  I very much appreciate it.  I want to start by saying that I am proud to be the Member of Parliament for Arundel & South Downs.   Half of my constituency is covered by the South Downs National Park.  It’s outstandingly beautiful countryside.  I devote much of my political life to trying to protect the landscape in my constituency from development, and indeed enjoy a very constructive relationship with the Park Authority in discussing the many ways in which we can do that.  I understand the responsibilities that you have.  I would emphasise [those responsibilities are] to take a balanced view of the proposal, but I want to make one simple point. 

“This Arundel bypass, in particular in its offline forms, should be called the ‘South Downs National Park relief road’.  It will take traffic away from the National Park.  That is what the Highways England figures show: a reduction in traffic through [the Park] - on the A29 for instance - of about a third, depending on the route that is chosen. 

“My constituents in the South Downs National Park endure very high levels of traffic that rat-runs up through the Park because of the congestion at Arundel on the A27.  And it is clear from the figures that Highways England have produced – what’s more, it is intuitively obvious as well – that if we unblock that obstruction, where there are already dual carriageways on either side of Arundel, we will stop much of the rat-running, take traffic away from the Park.  And in my view, therefore, the ‘do nothing’ option is the worst option, and the most damaging option to the South Downs National Park, especially in view of the increased levels of development that are proposed outside the Park which are going to add to traffic levels. 

“My concern is that the report, as drafted, casually dismisses these arguments and looks only at [one side of] the impact of the proposed bypass on the National Park, forgetting that the road already runs through the National Park at Arundel.  This would simply divert the road slightly to the south of Arundel and in doing so will actually take traffic away from, not just the historic town of Arundel part of which is in the National Park, but from the Park itself. 

“So I therefore, in summary, urge you please to take a balanced view of this, to recognise that there are huge advantages to having a road that traffic away from the South Downs National Park.  That is why I, and both of my predecessors as Members for Arundel and this area, so strongly support this road, not just because it deals with the congestion, not just because of the economic advantages, but in my view because of the environmental advantages as well.  Thank you.”

   4.     To read Nick Herbert’s submission to the Highways England consultation in full, see here.

   5.     To read Highways England’s consultation documents on the Arundel bypass, see http://roads.highways.gov.uk/projects/a27-arundel-improvement/.

Michelle TaylorSDNPA, A27