Sompting A27 Rural Group (SARG)
What is SARG and what are its key issues for the A27?
SARG is a group of residents and businesses concerned with accessibility between the rural areas north of the A27 Sompting Bypass, and the A27 and adjacent communities. Sompting Estate presented evidence, supported by a meeting of SARG at the Sompting Downs Barn, which contributed to Highways England's decision to reject the downland route option in the A27 Feasibility Study.
Sompting Estate and SARG do, however, still have concerns about severance issues that could arise if online improvements go too far in prioritising long distance through traffic over accessibility for local traffic.
- For example, on the north side of the Sompting Bypass, it is only currently practical to access the A27 in the gaps between continuous traffic streams created by the Lyons Farm traffic lights, from Lambleys, Church and Dankton Lanes
- This affects businesses such as the joinery workshop and Estate Office at Middle Yard Barn; Upton Farm and Livery; Sompting Abbotts School; Lychpole Farm; Titch Hill Farmhouse (aka Steepdown House); Southern Water; as well as residents on Lambleys and Church Lanes.
So any enhancements to traffic flow will need to consider and protect the rural economy of this National Park area and its accessibility for visitors. Many options will need to work together to have a cumulative beneficial, rather than adverse effect on local accessibility. For example:
- A reduced speed limit on the Sompting Bypass could contribute to improving traffic flow at either end of it, and accessbility along it.
- Better coordination between the various traffic lights along the route could enhance through-flow without making local access issues worse.
What has happened up to now?
The Department for Transport earlier considered a range of options for improving traffic flow in Worthing, as part of a wider 'A27 Feasibility Study'. This Study includes Arundel and Lewes-Polegate sections of the A27 as well as Worthing: more general information can be found on www.arundelbypass.co.uk .
GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENT 1 DEC 2014: A27 Worthing: Improvements to capacity and junctions along the A27, subject to consultation with West Sussex County Council and the public. £350M funding for improvements to the A27 along the south coast, tackling severe congestion at Arundel, Worthing and Lewes - consulting with the local community on options.
SOMPTING ESTATE & SARG COMMENT:
We welcome that the government has not proposed a damaging downland bypass in the National Park. We support online junction and capacity improvements if they are well designed to serve the nature of the traffic in the Worthing area, which is mostly local not long distance. If changes are designed to prioritise long distance through traffic, they may have the side effect of harming the essential access needs of the local economy and residents including connections to the National Park. We note that two thirds of traffic on the Worthing-Lancing A27 is said by Highways England to be going from one part of Worthing-Lancing to another so local accesses should be prioritised.
On 4th November 2014 the Department for Transport (DfT) presented their consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff(PB)'s findings to the final meeting of their Stakeholder Reference Group. For Worthing, PB had assessed 8 options for the following impacts: Connectivity, Societal (severance & pollution), Economic, Safety & Resilience, Environmental, and Accessibility. It was admittedly 'high level' (which means superficial). This was not so much a sophisticated or evidence-grounded assessment, as an initial brainstorming about possible pros and cons. The WSCC model used is also open to question here as it was not designed to look at situations like Worthing where most of the movements are local. However, within that context:
- The 'maximum tunnelling' Option A got two ticks for the first five, everything else got one tick; this is a somewhat crude assessment, and questionable: eg connectivity in the Sompting Bypass area would be severely reduced owing to higher speeds and more continuous flow on the A27 unless the Sompting Bypass is also tunnelled, and/or, special connectivity arrangements are made for this section (see below).
- In Environmental impact terms the C/D routes involving a downland bypass were assessed with the maximum two crosses for negative impact. This does make sense in terms of the evidence (see papers on links below).
- Online dualling (F) alone was given a tick in Environmental beneficial impact, and options G and H alone (online localised widening + junction improvements, and, public transport investment) were each given a cross for negative impact on Accessibility: these are also questionable but without clear definition and evidence it is impossible to say whether they make sense or not.
Only four Options were given an outline costing: A (£1.3 billion), F (£90-100M), G (£40-50M) and H (<£30M).
The consequence of a value for money assessment, same as that of a planning viability appraisal given the protected status of the National Park, has to be:
There will never be a new A27 road through the Sompting Downs.
The A27 Feasibility Study considered and rejected the Sompting Downs option indicated in the visual above.
Other options also raised big issues of negative impacts on the National Park and on local communities.
Perhaps surprisingly, other options could also threaten the accessibility and the social and economic viability of Worthing’s downland, if provision is not made to protect these.
- Tunnelling: what could go wrong?
If the government pursues the max tunnelling option (£1.3bn) but does not also tunnel the Sompting Bypass section, then most of the present 'old' Worthing a27 would be relieved of strategic through traffic. So the busy local roads should at least temporarily have a slight traffic capacity and journey speed increase. But, it is likely that most of the present, local, traffic might prefer to use the well-connected existing road for its typically short journeys, rather than the new tunnels designed for through traffic. Possibly new long distance through traffic would fill the tunnel route. If not, its main benefit would be faster speeds through Worthing for the minority through-traffic which currently exists. The noise pollution to the Sompting village and downs would also be greater than before, if faster traffic is coming back out of the tunnels for the Sompting Bypass section.
For all these reasons the tunnelling would therefore need to go all the way through including the Sompting Bypass section, but also, to have sufficient and well-designed points for getting on and off.
- Online dualling: what could go wrong?
If the government pursues the online dualling option, speed on the dualled A27 may be faster, but connections on off and across the A27 will be fewer and further between. Traffic accessibility within the Worthing area could be worse than it is now, if we have the a27 redesigned to prioritise inter-regional traffic over movements within the general Worthing area.
The Highways Agency would need to demonstrate that it has understood, prioritised, designed and budgeted for the local connectivity needs of Worthing on off and across the A27.
- How would access be provided around the Sompting Bypass area?
Severance issues With either tunnelling or online dualling, if there is faster traffic movement and a more continuous traffic flow along the A27 Sompting Bypass, the consequence will be physical or at least effective severance for upper Lambleys Lane, upper Dankton Lane and upper Church Lane, from the A27 and also from the other local roads south, west and east of the Sompting Bypass. The homes, businesses and farms in the downland part of Sompting parish will be marooned, and the National Park will be finally severed from the Sompting community.
Access roads If traffic becomes more constant and fast flowing on the Sompting Bypass, alternative access opportunities would be essential to sustain the community and local economy north of the A27, and access to it by the community from the south. Acces roads going over or under the A27, or around the back to Lyons Way in the west or North Sompting in the east, whilst not so damaging as downland routes C or D (see top), could take up a substantial area of land, including some negative impact on landscape, homes and enterprises in the National Park including important listed buildings such as the 1000-year-old St Marys church Sompting.
Should the Tunnels be continuous? If, as sketched on the initial map, the A27 ‘comes up for air’ out of the tunnels on the Sompting bypass rather than being continuous through the section, the very substantial local traffic will just for that section be added to the increased through traffic. Could the Sompting Bypass thereby be made into a worse bottleneck than at present, at least from the point of view of all the local traffic queuing to get on and off the tunnel run? Might getting this local traffic on and off be dangerous and difficult and have major impacts on the National Park by road building if done effectively, and by severance if not?
More generally, given that the traffic whose congestion the scheme seeks to alleviate is principally local within the Worthing area: will there be enough access points for the tunneled A27 to continue to serve local traffic rather than just long distance through traffic? And what would be the impact of that number of accesses on traffic flow, value for money, safety and amenity?
Careful consideration of these issues will be needed before options are selected for improving the A27 through the Worthing area.
If these issues are not carefully considered as part of the process of determining what is the most appropriate method to improve the Worthing-Lancing section of the A27: the risk is that local accessibility and pollution in the Worthing-Lancing section could be made substantially worse than they are at present. This would have a gravely detrimental impact on the South Downs National Park, the community of the Worthing area, and the Sompting Estate and other enterprises in this narrowest and most sensitive section of the National Park.
Evidence provided by Sompting Estate, supported by SARG, against a Sompting Downs route
More information can be found on the Worthing page of South Coast Alliance for Transport and the Environment (SCATE). You can also click here to follow the 'A27 Alarm' blog.