Horsham district councillors have voted to object to a legal challenge against plans for an A27 Arundel bypass launched by the South Downs National Park Authority.
The Authority (SNDP) called for a judicial review after Highways England announced its preferred route for the bypass would cut through the park, including ancient woodland at Binsted.
Known as option 5a, it would, said SNDP, cause ‘significant damage’ to the park’s landscapes.
But, at a meeting of the council on Wednesday (September 5), Paul Marshall (Con, Chantry), tabled a notice of motion, which accused SDNP of ignoring the plight of residents in villages near the A283, which endures heavy traffic as drivers try to avoid congestion on the A27.
Calling on the council to write to SDNP chairman Margaret Paren, Mr Marshall said: “The action taken by the SDNP has completely ignored the traffic volume and the environmental impact that residents have had to put with in south of the district that is also part of the South Downs National Park.
“The residents for years have been waiting for an improvement scheme that will make the A27 route accessible as opposed to circumnavigating A283 and other local roads to avoid the A27 congestion.
“Residents who live in the vicinity of A283 particularly the villages of Steyning, Wiston, Washington, Storrington, Amberley & Pulborough have had to put up with this traffic in both directions as a consequence.”
Mr Marshall shared concerns about the air quality in Storrington as a ‘direct consequence of the diversionary traffic’, with it and Cowfold designated as Air Quality Management Areas.
The notice of motion was supported by Liz Kitchen (Con, Rusper and Colgate), who described traffic in the Arundel area as ‘a disgrace’.
Mrs Kitchen said: “I recall this council opposed the standing of a national park because they knew that this kind of conflict would happen. It has happened and I’m sorry that it’s happened in this way.”
Leonard Crosbie (Lib Dem, Trafalgar) added: “I think as many district councils affected by the problems of traffic from the A27 which have been going on for 30 or 40 years should back Highways England on this matter.”
Council leader Ray Dawe (Con, Chantry) said it was ‘no longer acceptable’ for residents to put up with the consequences of the traffic that goes through Storrington.
Mr Dawe added: “Twenty thousand cars a day are going through Storrington on average. It’s intolerable. It is actually an area that’s highly polluted.”
While none of the councillors opposed the notice of motion, a handful chose to abstain from the vote.
They included David Coldwell (Con, Bramber, Upper Beeding and Woodmancote), who told the meeting that SDNP’s first duty was to preserve and enhance the natural environment of the park – and the Highways England preferred route would destroy six hectares of ancient woodland.
He said the judicial review may not have come forward if another option had been chosen – route 6 – which ran further to the south and avoided the woodland.
Mrs Paren said: “As I have said on a number of occasions, the decision to call for a judicial review was not taken lightly.
“Our work is guided by the statutory purposes of the national park, set by Government in legislation, and these inform all of our decisions.
“Having heard from public speakers, considered expert legal opinion and discussed the matter in detail, the difficult decision was taken to seek leave for the High Court to grant a judicial review.
“We await their decision.”