‘We are a united front’ – that was the resounding message made by campaigners across Sussex battling for much-needed improvements to one of the nation’s most congested highways.
On Thursday evening, politicians, council leaders and businesspeople from across the county gathered in Worthing College to launch the A27 Action Campaign.
They are fighting to persuade the Government to invest a significant amount of money on the road to improve key bottlenecks as well as dualling the highway along its entire stretch.
If successful, it is hoped it will help to solve air pollution issues in Storrington, which is currently congested with motorists rat-running to avoid the main road.
Campaigners also say it will boost businesses across the county which rely heavily upon road.
During the meeting, Martin Fausset, managing director of Ricardo UK, in Shoreham, said: “The A27 is a significant problem for people who work and live in this part of the world. The travel-to-work times are very unpredictable and, in some cases, are surprisingly long for short journeys. So, it’s an enormous impediment to people being mobile and being able to work in a variety of different businesses across Sussex.”
This latest fight follows a similar campaign more than a decade ago, where political divides and a lack of consensus caused the appeal to fail. This time, campaigners hope to secure improvements to a number of key areas on the road.
As well as dualling the road, it is hoped investment will improve six junctions at Chichester, build a bypass of Arundel and better the Worthing-Lancing corridor – including five main junctions and a new junction at Lancing.
There will also be improvements at the Fontwell junction, trunk road junctions at Brighton and the A27/A26 access routes to Newhaven.
However, critics of the scheme voiced their concern about the environmental impact this could have during a protest outside Worthing College prior to the campaign’s launch.
They say the plans could destroy great swathes of countryside – particularly if an Arundel bypass was built.
The protesters also expressed their concern about the numbers of motorists who could be encouraged to use the road.
Chris Todd, of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “This is a huge waste of public money.
“It’s going to cost hundreds of millions of pounds and it’s going to cause huge environmental damage.”
They are appealing for more money to be invested in improving public transport and cycling routes.
However, Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert, alongside the MPs for Littlehampton, Worthing and Adur, disagreed with this view. During the meeting, Mr Herbert said more damage would be done to the environment by not improving the highway.
He noted that the current stop-start traffic which motorists experience during rush hour already causes significant air pollution.
He felt that this would be greatly reduced if traffic was able to freely move along the A27. “The A27 is meant to be a coastal highway but too often it is a coastal car park,” Mr Herbert said.
“Rat-running through the South Downs to avoid traffic jams on the A27 damages the environment and the National Park. There is a strong environmental and economic case for fully dualling the A27.”
Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex County Council, is now urging as many people as possible to be part of the campaign and give their views.
Commuters and residents can pledge their support for the campaign by visiting the A27 Action website www.a27action.co.uk and liking a new Facebook page, ‘A27 Action’.