Public Meeting at the Worthing Pavilion Theatre on 28 October
Over 800 Worthing residents packed the Worthing Pavilion Theatre on 28 October to find out more about plans for development of the A27. The sometimes heated meeting was chaired by Tom Wye, Chair of the A27 Working Group and started at 7pm. Both of Worthing’s MPs Tim Loughton and Sir Peter Bottomley opened the meeting followed by a presentations from Highways England. Stephen Cranford followed, speaking in his capacity as a local traffic expert, and not speaking on behalf of his employer –he studies traffic flow professionally. The final presentation was from the local Chamber of Commerce.
Tom Wye opened the meeting by thanking everyone for attending and explained some of the logistics of the meeting, highlighted the speaking order and that there would be an opportunity for questions during the meeting. He handed over to East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton.
Tim Loughton mentioned the background to why the A27 is on the agenda now for improvements. This meeting was somewhat premature to a full consultation with many meetings that will take place once Highways England publish details of the preferred option for change. He hoped that the meeting would quash what he said were rumours about 300 homes being demolished to make way for a dual carriageway or even a six lane superhighway. He said that this will not happen. He explained that the A27 Working Group had been set up in July 2015, chaired by Tom Wye to disseminate information to the community in Worthing. He continued, saying that the Working Group membership is made up from local politicians from all political parties, a number of councillors, members of the Chambers of Commerce and representatives of Residents Associations. (Points to note. Not all the Councillors who represent wards along the route of the A27 are members of the A27 Working Group. Not everyone is a member of a Residents Association and there are large parts of the affected area where no Residents Association has existed.)
Tim Loughton said that the aim is to coalesce around an agreed solution which was a lesson from the 1990s where there was so much disagreement about what was the best option for the future of the A27 that meant nothing happened. If there is no solution, the traffic congestion would get worse he said. All the options being considered are online changes as a bypass had been ruled out before. He accepted that “communications about why a bypass had been ruled out were not communicated as well as they could have been.”
Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West was next to speak. He said he was happy to come along to a special meeting for any residents groups who wish to invite him.
He spoke a little about the background of the A27, mentioning the history back to the 1990s (Point to note – this history, as one audience member said, goes back much further to at least the 1960s.)
Sir Peter said that the 1990s Inspector ruled out a South Downs route and he said that the reasons for ruling out a route along the South Downs were even more valid now. He explained that he had been a previous Transport Minister so had expertise in transport and road building and that no national road had been built unless there are benefits for the national population.
Two speakers from Highways England, Abi Oluwande and Martin Wright gave a presentation about what they have been doing and what’s next. Copies of these slides can be seen if you click here.
This presentation was followed by a short question and answer session. Questions and Answers are summarised.
Q – It will be another 5 years before work starts here. What about Arundel? This doesn’t solve the A27 problem.
A – Arundel is also an area being looked at by Highways England
Q – How much money is set aside for Worthing and Lancing improvements and how much of this is for preparatory work?
A - £50 - £100 million is set aside for the whole scheme. Preparatory work will be a minimal figure. A guess would be a fraction. (Note – this questions was not answered.)
Q – There’s clearly a contradiction. Tim Loughton says that 300 houses will not be knocked down. Sir Peter Bottomley says that there are concerns about people driving out of their driveways onto the main A27. Will there be a dual carriageway? If the road opens in 2023, that indicates that the road will close for it to be able to open. So we’ve had 3 different messages, none of which deal with the issue. Can someone clarify why there are contradictory messages?
A – Sir Peter Bottomley said that he wasn’t comfortable with people driving out of their driveways onto the road and that the designers would find a safe way. Building a road is costly and all the messages are compatible. Tim Loughton said that the options that Highways England are considering are a range – from big to small. It’s clear that a full dual carriageway is not feasible although Highways England can’t say that yet. It’s clear that there won’t be dualling and the solution will be addressing the pinch points. The number of houses that could be demolished would be likely to be only be in single figures.
Q - What sort of dualling is it on the options list?
A – An online improvement. 2+2. There’s not sufficient room for a full specification dual carriageway with a central reservation. Highways England is still looking at options.
Q – Is it single or dual?
This was not answered.
Q – The consultants being used are Canadian – why are people from the local area not being used?
A – The consultants are UK based and in Godalming. They know a lot about it as they did the feasibility study.
Q – Highways England say that they have a mandate from the Government. Is the Government deciding the cost / benefit? Is this a general term or a Government term? What’s the logic?
A – It’s a ratio of the costs v the benefits. We do the calculations based on a Government formula.
Q – In relation to the cost / benefit, is the value of 6 times what’s spent? We need to make this real.
A – We’re not practitioners – the formula is used to show how different schemes differ and to show comparisons.
Q – It‘s worrying that a Northern route has been discounted. This was used for several weeks following the Shoreham Air disaster. Can’t we have another look at this route again? Am sure the cost is not so relevant today.
A – That route is too long and would involve too much work and is well out of budget.
Q – When you do the roadworks, what will you do about traffic when the road’s closed? Where will it go?
A – The road will not be closed and traffic management will be used.
Q – The more we go on, we keep getting more and more meaningless figures which are not explained. We can’t go on like this. Have you carried out a proper Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) analysis? It’s not difficult to do. Tunnelling and a northern route have been dismissed. Do a DCF.
A – We’ve done a cost benefit analysis. We don’t have this information.
Q – A few years ago, traffic lights were installed at Grove Lodge, the suggestion of a Councillor who has now left the country! In August, the traffic lights were off and the traffic flowed well. Why can’t we have a decent proper bypass?
Q – Mandates – we want localisation. We want to give a mandate to you for us to have a proper bypass. So much money wasted on paving Montague Street.
A – As Highways England, we can’t speak for the Government. Highways England had nothing to do with the redevelopment of the paving of Montague Street.
Q – A tunnel has been ruled out. In Switzerland, they can build a tunnel through granite but we can’t build a tunnel through chalk. Why not build a tunnel to save a national park and people’s homes, reduce pollution etc.?
A – We have to work within constraints.
Q – About the Northern route, where are the figures? It uses existing roads. It would mean we would not have the social coats as these roadworks would go on for years. Tim Loughton spoke to the authorities about Grove Lodge but they didn’t listen to him. Why are the traffic lights back on? It’s another typical view of bureaucracy knows best. Lyons Farm will compound the issue.
A – Tom Wye – Worthing College have said that they need the lights for the safety of the students.
Q – Put a bridge over it.
A – Highways England will look at Grove Lodge again.
Q – The cost noted for improvements is £50 - £100 million. By 2023, it will cost 3 times more. Is £50 million at the current rate or more?
A – This is the money we’re given.
A presentation from traffic expert Stephen Cranford followed. He was told that he was now a member of the A27 Working Group by Tom Wye. An image of traffic flows used in his presentation is here and the text of his presentation is here. Material used in his presentation is available here
This presentation was very well received by the audience with lengthy applause.
John Haffenden and Peter Webb MBE then gave a presentation from the Worthing Chamber of Commerce. Click here for the presentation slides.
This presentation was interrupted by the audience, some of whom believed that this presentation which included a video went on for too long, provided no new information and was taking up valuable question and answer time.
A further session of questions and answers followed.
Q – Mention was made of future traffic density and the Port of Southampton is expanding its container operation with more containers travelling along the A27. Is the future development of places like Southampton and the corresponded knock on effect of increased traffic being taken into account when new roads are planned to address the traffic congestion?
A – Future aspects are taken into account when modelling future traffic flows.
Q – Have improvements already started with the new lighting on the Upper Brighton Road which invade into our gardens? (Note – this question was asked 3 or 4 times)
A – The new lights have been installed by the County Council.
Q - At the beginning of the presentation, Highways England said that the directive is that the benefit should come to the local community. The largest benefit would be to take away the through traffic.
A – Yes.
A member of the audience shouted - “Will anyone who wants a bypass stand up?”
An overwhelming majority of people stood up and followed by applause.
Q – What about the cost / benefit of people living in Worthing?
A – Its all part of the analysis in the cost benefit ratio.
Q – I’ve lived in Worthing all my life and we were told that there would be a huge road from Folkestone to Honiton in 1967. That’s when it all started, not in the 1990s as Sit Peter Bottomley said. Who are the stakeholders? Who is giving Worthing a chance? Where did the money go when the properties along the road were purchased on compulsory purchase terms before?
A – Sir Peter Bottomley replied that we can agree that the scheme came into being in the 1960s. The Department for Transport had the money.
Q – Government has environmental directives. There’s only one scheme that improves the environment for residents and that’s a bypass. Highways England is looking at the benefits using a formula. If the cost is 0, the benefit will be high, so they will recommend the option with the lowest cost.
Q – Traffic will increase. Do you see why we need a bypass for Worthing?
A – Tim Loughton said that he wanted to see a bypass for Worthing that we can pay for but realistically that could not happen for reasons of the high cost and it going into the National Park. This is a consideration now.
There are 2 stages. We have to get something done now. In the short term we need something to help traffic to flow better and then consider if a bypass is feasible in the longer term. If we just go for a bypass, as over 60% of the traffic is local traffic, it won’t take a 7 mile detour. A bypass is not going to be considered for the next few years.
Q – Big lorries already use Long Furlong. Why not improve this route, especially if there’s work to improve the current alignment? If we only improve the current alignment, how would you like to live along this road? What about pollution?
A – Air pollution is one of the most important factors. Tim Loughton continued this answer – there’s more air pollution when traffic is not moving. There are environmental red lights all along this route which show that something need to be done. A bypass is not going to happen in the next few years so we should do something that will make improvements. If there’s an option for more than £100 million to get a better solution, can go back to the Transport Secretary. We want to see what options are on the table.
Q – Why are we spending money on a windfarm but have no money for a bypass? Can’t we take from one pot and pass to another?
A – Sir Peter Bottomley said that the Wind Farm is privately funded. A bypass would not take away 60% of the traffic which was local.
The meeting ended at just before 9pm
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