Wednesday 2 March 2022

Response to the 2022 A27 Arundel bypass consultation

Once again the Sussex countryside is threatened by a major new road development around Arundel.  Below is my response to Highways England.

Highways England.  A27 Arundel bypass consultation

I write in my capacity as a resident living between Storrington and Pulborough.  However, I have had a long career with the Sussex Wildlife Trust including a 12-year period as Chief Executive.  I am currently the Trust’s President.


I wish to register my objection to the proposed A27 Arundel bypass.  The reasons for my concern are as follows:


In broad outline, whilst the environmental damage caused by a road is clear and severe, the benefits are at best illusory and at worst counterproductive.


Local environmental damage

The direct ecological damage from the road in this area has been well articulated on numerous occasions over the last few decades.  The current “grey route” will disrupt flood plain grassland in the Arun Valley, sever habitat connectivity south of Binstead woods and disrupt valuable grassland and wetland habitats.  Many rare and protected species would be impacted.  It has turned out, for instance, that the area is of high value to bat populations, something that is not entirely unexpected bearing in mind the proximity of the road to one of the largest areas of ancient woodland on the coastal plain.   Alongside ecological disruption there will be severe damage to three villages, turning a quiet rural area into a wide transport corridor.  The noise and disruption to these villages would make life there virtually unliveable.  Even the town of Arundel itself would suffer 24/7 increase in noise levels from 70mph traffic as it crosses the raised section over the Arun Valley.


Wider environmental damage

The road will drive up car use.  Indeed, by “increasing capacity”, the inevitable consequence is to significantly increase traffic, hence the real aim of the road must be to increase traffic.  This will increase carbon dioxide emissions.  It is government policy, indeed a global necessity, to radically reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the very short term.  This urgency has only been increased by the recent publication of the IPCCs 6th report stating that we have “a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future”.  We need to rapidly bring greenhouse gas emissions down to zero.  The transport sector is already the worst failing sector in terms of delivering climate objectives and roads like this are pushing things quickly in the wrong direction.  Roads policy in general is in direct opposition to wider national policy and global requirement.  A roads-based approach to access is completely at variance to the needs of society in the 21st Century.


Lack of benefit

An aim of the road is to reduce congestion and speed traffic flow, and in so doing boost the economy.  The logic of this is deeply flawed.  Traffic may be able to speed round Arundel but will only be met by increased congestion at Worthing in one direction and Chichester in the other.  Even ignoring these bottlenecks, the increase in traffic will increase overall journey times more widely throughout this part of Sussex.  Towns will become more congested, road intersections more crowded and villagers more pressured.


It is claimed that the road will reduce traffic flows through surrounding villages, such as Pulborough and Storrington (in which I live).  This has been claimed for many such roads throughout recent history.  However, as is shown by many studies (such as the government’s own Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment, 1994), this hoped-for relief of areas near the road development, almost never happens.  The more usual effect is of increased traffic on roads that were supposed to be relieved.  SACTRA reports average increases of around 10% on roads supposed to be relieved, and even more in the long term.  This effect has been identified over and over again, not just in the UK but around the world.  In short, the claimed benefit of a road will not take place, certainly not in the long term.  Contrary to the optimistic claims of the consultation document, villages like Storrington and Pulborough should ready themselves for increased traffic, pollution, and congestion, should this road be built.


The lack of benefit is reflected in the benefit to cost ratio of the proposal.  The road is hugely expensive.  Even using rather optimistic figures for how small savings in time might be reflected economically, the costs hugely outweigh the benefits.  Benefit-to-cost ratios are unlikely to deliver even 1 for 1.  This is particularly galling when full cost accounting for natural capital investment shows that investment in nature can often deliver benefit ratios of 6:1; and there is a case of river restoration in the West Country where 65:1 has been estimated.  This grey route proposal is a huge waste of public money delivering little benefit and much harm.  The concept of public money for public good should mean that these significant sums of money should be redirected into sectors, such a natural capital investment, where return on investment can be demonstrated.


The alternatives

First do no harm is perhaps the best starting point.  So doing nothing is better than the damaging road proposed now. 


After this, however, the priority for addressing access should be by reducing the need to travel (for example through smart planning, increase of the delivery of needs and services locally and the use of shorter supply lines).  The next priority should be for active travel.  Most journeys are less than 5 miles long, ideal for walking and cycling if the infrastructure was provided.  Then comes modal shift – moving from car use to public transport such as train or bus.  Only as a last resort should be the construction of infrastructure and even within that, should be improvement rather than expansion.  The Arundel Bypass proposal has gone straight for the worst option in the transport hierarchy.


Even if it is concluded that investment in infrastructure is desirable, then a scheme that is designed to drive up congestion is the worst possible option.  A more considered scheme designed to ease flow but not increase car use (so not increasing “capacity”) would be far more appropriate.  One test for any scheme should be how it reduces road use, not how it increases it.  A more modest option would be far less expensive and have far fewer negative consequences and leave room in the budget for investment in things that might actually work, such as active travel and modal shift.  In this respect I am sympathetic to the single-carriageway Arundel Alternative.



An Arundel bypass has been proposed on numerous occasions over several decades.  Proposals always fall for the same reasons – the damage is clear and severe, yet the benefits are illusory.  This recent proposal fails in the same way.  Indeed, the failure of this scheme is even worst today than in the past as, with the climate and ecological emergency, the needs of society have moved fundamentally away from such a roads-based policy.  At a time when systemic shifts are needed in the way we deliver access to needs and services, we find road programmes diverting energy, initiative, and investment away from the much-needed changes that are urgently required. 


This proposal should be rejected.

1 comment:

Mike Croker said...

Eloquent, and spot on.