By Tor Lawrence
Highways England announced its preferred option for the much-debated Arundel A27 consultation. This road leads nowhere that we want to go.
Despite significantly cheaper and less damaging options being presented, the ‘grey route’ will cause irreparable damage to our wildlife and the Arun valley floodplain.
£450 million will buy us a 8km stretch of dual carriageway, largely built on a bund, through Sussex countryside. This 8km 'wall' of headlights, fumes and noise will create a critical barrier for wildlife and compromise endangered species that are already so vulnerable. Many of the species present within the area require mobility through the entire area of woodland and connected habitat. The whole landscape represents roosting, feeding and foraging opportunities for bats and other endangered species and to interrupt this natural function will lead to devastating impacts.
Anyone who has been following the messages of Sir David Attenborough will know the risk to wildlife that we face are throughout the whole array of species (41% of UK species in decline) and that we are in danger of simply pushing these wildlife communities too far. No amount of good intentions and replanting can restore this lost abundance if we carry on with this type of destruction.
The scheme promotional video shows a bund (raised bank) crossing the Arun valley floodplain which is a vital area for storage of flood water in times of flooding – and increasingly so. We are in the wrong era of history to be blocking the flow of water in our floodplains. As rainfall and storm patterns change, we should be giving our rivers more space, not less. The promotional video says lightly that there could be an option for a viaduct, but as this £450 million scheme is already short of cash before it even starts, the more expensive option of a viaduct is a pipe dream. The environmental mitigation for a scheme of this scale is considerable, and so often the 'supplementary point' when budgets cannot be met.
We need a government agency looking at our transport issues in the round, not just a road building company. We don't consider that the government's transport hierarchy has been given enough consideration, which in light of the climate and ecological crisis is outrageous. The consultation for this road was carried out pre-Covid and some of the evidence cannot now stand. Are we building a road for a population that is on the brink of the transition to a net-zero future? This is not just a local issue, this is a national concern.
Sussex Wildlife Trust is very proud to work alongside other organisations in the South Coast Alliance for Transport and the Environment (SCATE) and we will all work together to challenge this appalling proposal.