The county council has been asked to ‘broadly support’ a £69m scheme to improve the A27 between Worthing and Lancing.
Highways England is consulting on a single option to upgrade six junctions to cut congestion and reduce delays for motorists.
County councillors for Worthing and Lancing called the plans a ‘disappointment’, described being ‘flabbergasted’, and suggested residents had been ‘short-changed’ at an Environmental and Community Services Select Committee meeting today (Thursday September 7).
However several committee members, who were discussing West Sussex County Council’s draft response to the consultation, warned that if they opposed the current proposals too strongly, the Government could pull the funding completely.
Simon Oakley (Con, Chichester East) suggested they stick to online schemes only as ‘there seems to be no reasonable alternative’, while Heidi Brunsdon (Con, Imberdown) thought they had to be ‘realistic’ about what was achievable.
Andrew Baldwin (Con, Horsham East) expressed sympathy with local county councillors who were on a ‘hiding to nothing’ and described how current proposal ‘really isn’t good enough’.
But he added: “If you turn this down and do not support it I think the money will go elsewhere.”
The committee asked the cabinet member for infrastructure and highways to write to ‘broadly support’ the measures and improvements proposed within the context of Highway England’s objectives.
They also asked the response to include an executive summary which acknowledged the positive and negative impacts of the scheme, and noted a number of unresolved issued which need to be addressed when proposals are finalised.
Elizabeth Sparkes (Con, Cissbury) questioned the need to add more sets of traffic lights, and called for both the current signals to be removed from the Grove Lodge roundabout and a footbridge installed.
She described how Worthing had ‘suffered long enough’ and described a bypass as the ‘only viable long-term solution’.
But Deborah Urquhart (Con, Angmering and Findon) ‘strongly opposed’ a northern bypass due to the impact on the South Downs National Park and the villages there.
However she described how Adur and Worthing had been ‘short-changed’ by the current scheme, adding: “We should therefore continue to pressure Government for additional funding for the future, but we can’t put this scheme at risk.”
She raised specific concerns about plans for a no-right hand turn for eastbound traffic at the Lyons Farm junction on to Sompting Road, as tshe thought this would divert heavy lorries through Broadwater.
Steve Waight (Con, Goring) suggested grade separated junctions would ‘greatly enhance traffic flow’.
He argued that if the scheme is not future proofed, all they were doing is spending £69m which would be ‘wasted’ when a long-term solution is then required.
Meanwhile Bryan Turner (Con, Broadwater) said: “It’s poor value for money and any benefits will not be worth the disruption of the construction phase.”
He added: “I think the view from Worthing is it’s a waste of money as proposed. Bank the money and come up with something better.”
The most scathing criticism came from George Barton (Con, Sompting and North Lancing), who was not in attendance, but his written statement was read out by the committee’s chairman.
He said: “This is an arrogant self-opinionated proposal, being put forward by a team of desperate paper planning bureaucrats who have no alternative options and ideas to offer the public.”
James Walsh (LDem, Littlehampton East), leader of the Lib Dem group, described the scheme as ‘pitiful’ and felt ‘absolutely underwhelmed and disappointed by the scale of the proposal’.
But he also made a plea not to press Highways England too hard on a survey of the cumulative impact of all the schemes for the A27, as he argued this could delay or threaten other projects such as the Arundel bypass.
Committee member Sean McDonald (Con, Northbrook) said he was ‘flabbergasted’ when he learnt that the current proposals would only improve average peak journey times by four minutes, adding: “We need to go back to Highways England and ask them to revisit this at some length.”
Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Gossops Green) asked if the improvements were ‘some kind of sick joke’ by the Government and Highways England, adding: “Anything which does not properly address congestion on this road is money wasted.”
Bob Lanzer, cabinet member for infrastructure and highways, will consider the committee’s recommendations before he approves any final response to Highways England.
The consultation closes on Tuesday September 12. To respond visit Highways England’s website.