Highways England is consulting on 6 options for a new A27 Arundel Bypass. All routes are potentially highly damaging taking out ancient woodland and most impacting upon the South Downs National Park. Previous proposals have met with a wealth of opposition from national organisations and two legal challenges. So far there is little evidence that Highways England has learnt anything from these experiences and seems intent on pushing ahead with this damaging new road. Concerned about the precedent that this would set the Council for National Parks is urging its supporters to write in and object to the scheme.
From what we’ve seen so far, it looks like Highways England’s justification for the scheme is based on its own predictions that there will be a big increase in traffic. Apart from the fact that traffic figures have been consistently over-stated (something that helps boost the case for the scheme), Highways England has had no consideration for the role that it needs to play in tackling climate change.
With the passing of new climate change legislation to commit the UK to zero net Carbon by 2050 (a tightening of the targets previously set) this is going require more and faster cuts. The Committee on Climate Change in its recent report has highlighted that transport is one of the sectors where urgent action is required as emissions have failed to fall in line with expectations. Surface transport is now the largest source of UK greenhouse gas emissions (23% of the total) and saw emissions rise from 2013 to 2017 and with emissions now higher than they were in 1990. It is clear urgent action is required to tackle this and as the Committee for Climate Change acknowledge, that will require a shift from car use to more walking, cycling and public transport.
Yet with all of the options that Highways England has developed, road traffic and carbon emissions will rise. So while we urgently need to cut emissions in a sector already out of control, Highways England is carrying on making the situation worse.
The South Coast Alliance for Transport and the Environment (SCATE) a network of groups and businesses on the south coast, concerned about the plans to expand the A27 and pressing for more sustainable solutions to road building, is fighting back. It is calling for the money for the dual carriageway to be invested instead in public transport, walking and cycling along with a shorter and less damaging section of new road. This would safeguard the National Park while removing the worst of the hold-ups on the road. Better public transport would give people greater choice for getting around and help reduce traffic levels.
This surely has to be the way forward, not the out-dated and climate threatening 20th century approach that Highways England is pursuing.