Nick Herbert: We must push for major upgrades on A27

Last Friday I attended a summit meeting with local authority leaders and government officials at County Hall in Chichester to discuss the A27. The route is designated as one of national significance, yet too often it resembles not so much a coastal highway as a coastal car park.

Delays caused by congestion at Chichester, Arundel and Worthing are irritating to local people. Rat-running through the South Downs harms the environment. Storrington has a serious air quality problem.

And poor transport links are one of the major reasons why coastal towns like Shoreham, Littlehampton and Bognor Regis have not prospered as they should.

Upgrades to the A27 have been talked about for decades. My predecessor but one, the late Sir Michael Marshall, secured the Arundel by-pass - until the incoming Labour government cancelled it. I have pressed the case with successive ministers.

The problem has been that these are very big and expensive schemes. The Chichester junction improvements are the least costly and will happen in due course. The Arundel by-pass is much more expensive, and a Worthing solution is the most challenging.

But I believe the time has come to think big. Major infrastructure projects are being prioritised by the Government to boost growth. We need to get everyone together - local authorities, the new Local Enterprise Partnership, businesses and MPs - to make the economic case for a major strategic upgrade of the whole A27 in West Sussex.

We need to show that this would boost economic growth. A promising start has been made with a joint County, Horsham and Arun study into the Arundel by-pass - the outcome of the earlier summit I called on the A27 - to be published shorty.

We will have to consider how to raise some local funding to lever in government support. And we must demonstrate there is a strong environmental case FOR the schemes. Local people are well aware of the damage caused by traffic in the National Park and through our Downland villages.

Well done to the County Council for convening last week’s summit, which was a good start. West Sussex MPs will follow up with a meeting this Friday.

The County Council is working on an Action Plan to deliver short term, minor improvements to the A27 to relieve congestion. But we must also have a concerted push for the major upgrades which the A27 needs.

If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or e-mail me at nick@nickherbert.com.