Millions pledged to improve A27 west of Polegate

A27 Lewis to Polegate road near Alciston. January 22nd 2014 E03205Q ENGSUS00120140122155749
A27 Lewis to Polegate road near Alciston. January 22nd 2014 E03205Q ENGSUS00120140122155749

The government announced a £75million pot has been set aside for the A27 from Polegate to Lewes this week.

This is part of a £350m scheme for improvements along the A27, including at Worthing and Arundel.

For the troubled section from Polegate to Lewes, cash has been earmarked, but a solution to the problem has not yet been decided.

This comes after years of lobbying for a solution to the A27 problem, an accident blackspot, with various ideas being discussed, such as a new road altogether between the two towns.

But for the moment, a public consultation will be held to find out the public’s views on what they think would improve the road.

Conservative Minister for Communities, Penny Mordaunt, visited Eastbourne on Monday, and said she hoped the entire £350m scheme would “link the A27 as a single road”.

“The A27 east of Lewes is a key problem,” she said. “It is a complex situation so we do recognise we need to consult with people.

“We need to consult with people to come up with the right scheme.

“This is a good day for the campaign, and great news for local businesses and the town’s economy.

“We’ve secured £75m worth of investment, and we have time now to bring local partners together to find a scheme that will deliver improvements to journey times – and most importantly, safety.”

Ideas which have been floated include a new super highway from Polegate to Lewes, where motorists could travel ten miles in ten minutes, with the new road starting at Cophall Roundabout and meeting up with the A27 at Beddingham.

Another option would be dualling of the A27 between Polegate and Lewes, which was first suggested more than 20 years ago.

But this plan has been ruled out because it is environmentally unfriendly and there is fierce opposition from conservationists and the South Downs National Park, the planning authority for the area.

Another solution includes small improvements along the existing road, which is a move supported by Polegate and Lewes MP Norman Baker.

In response to the announcement on Monday he said, “The A27 East of Lewes is the only section of trunk road where money has been set aside but no specific scheme identified.

“I am pleased that the government recognises the significance of the special nature of the Sussex countryside and any plans have to be sensitive to this.

“I want to see sensitive improvements particularly the bend at Selmeston and Wilmington Crossroads but I am very clear that a huge swathe of new concrete through the countryside is neither justified nor desirable.”

Caroline Ansell, Conservative candidate for Eastbourne, who has been campaigning for a better link, welcomed the news, and said the consultation will ensure the stretch of road is improved in the right way.

“It is down to us locally to determine,” she said. “We have got time and we have got money. We have got hopes for more investment.”

“With £75m worth of investment, we can now bring local partners and interested parties together to find a scheme that will deliver improvements to journey times – and most importantly, safety.

“And we all know that £75m, whilst a lot of money – won’t build the new road we want. We are ambitious for more, and will keep up the campaign until we get the full investment we need and deserve.”

She said the move was important for road safety reasons, as well as for business who claim they are losing money because of the road.

Earlier in the year Mrs Ansell joined Maria Caulfield, Conservative candidate for Lewes, and took Transport Minister John Hayes on a trip along the A27 between Polegate and Lewes by bus, so he could to experience the road.

Mr Hayes MP said at the time, “I’m delighted to have the opportunity to come to Eastbourne and experience the A27 for myself.

“It helps me to make important decisions when I’ve actually visited and been on the road itself.”

There has been mixed views on the decision, with some welcoming the consultation, and others saying not enough has been done.

Eastbourne and Willingdon MP Stephen Lloyd said, “I am profoundly disappointed that the department of transport can only come up with a further consultation. Pretty much the whole of our town has been campaigning vigorously to improve what is, frankly, a shocking road between Eastbourne and Lewes.

“I wanted a dual carriageway similar to what we already have from Brighton to Lewes, and instead we get a non-ringfenced amount, which may or may not be used at some point over the next five years, depending on what happens to Gatwick Airport.

“This is simply appalling and the Department for Transport and Treasury has let Eastbourne down.

“This, to me, smacks of the chancellor promising money before an election that is not actually deliverable.

“The whole of Eastbourne, across businesses, myself and the community have fought a tenacious campaign to try and get the department of transport and the treasury to understand just how bad our situation on the A27 is. It appears to have fallen on deaf ears.”

However, the Department of Transport has said the £75m is ring-fenced for this part of the A27, and Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport said in Parliament on Monday, “£75m has been ring-fenced for the A27 east of Lewes.”

The Chamber of Commerce met the news with mixed feelings, after having lobbied for action on the A27.

A study by the Chamber showed many businesses were unhappy with the road links to and from Eastbourne, and many wanted something to be done.

Some even claimed the state of the A27 resulted in loss of business for the company.

Christina Ewbank, Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce CEO, said, “We are very disappointed that we were not included in the Strategic Road Review Funding.

“We’re delighted for West Sussex that has got it, but disappointed East Sussex has not.

“We’re pleased with the £75m which is ring-fenced for us, but we just need to know what we can use it for, when we’re going to get it and how ring-fenced it is, given there is a general election in the next few months.

“We’ve got to make sure we can carry on and we need to pull together East Sussex County Council, Eastbourne Borough Council, Wealden District Council and all the other partners and we need to make the business case.”

On the environmental side, The South Downs National Park (SDNPA) also spoke out to the news of the £75m investment, as the current A27 between Polegate and Lewes falls within its remit.

Andrew Lee at SDNPA said, “There are strong protagonists for and against these proposals and it is for the government to take a view on whether, taking into account all social, environmental and economic factors, any or all of the schemes should go ahead.

“In doing this the potential impacts upon the special qualities of the South Downs National Park are a crucial issue and are our primary concern.

“The SDNPA will therefore be looking for evidence in any route options that may be brought forward in future that there are no other more sustainable transport measures which would have a lesser negative impact; robust data on the nature and scale of the impacts on the national park that would arise; and detail on how they would be mitigated or compensated for, bearing in mind that this is a nationally designated landscape.”

The £350 million package of investment for the A27 includes a new bypass at Arundel, and improvements along the stretch of single-carriageway and narrow dual-carriageway road between Worthing and Lancing.

The investment is part of an ambitious £15 billion plan to increase the capacity and improve condition of roads across the country.