By Dr Tony Whitbread
More roads cause more congestion – the only response the pro-roads lobby has to this is to perpetuate the myth. To them, more roads will remove a log jam, enable traffic to flow freely, maybe even reduce pollution as cars are no longer standing in queues. All, I’m afraid, an oft-repeated myth.It is very clear that new roads drive up car use, increase the amount of traffic, increase congestion, pollution and environmental damage.
Proposers of big new roads need to prove that the environmental damage done by roads is outweighed by the benefit they provide.As we have seen, the benefits are illusory, congestion gets worse, not better. So, not much benefit then!
But what of the environmental damage side of the equation? Whereas statements of the (illusory) benefits are writ large across press headlines, any environmental damage is hidden, belittled or ignored. Any data you can find is often thin or out of date. There are even assertions made, without evidence, attempting to downgrade any concerns that do manage to surface.
Assertions about the woodland to be lost in constructing the Arundel bypass are one example. “These are not ancient woods” we are told – another myth perpetuated by pro-roads lobbyists without any checking of the facts. This is particularly galling as it was evidence that I collected over 25 years ago when I worked for a government body that showed that these are ancient woods. As a result they are listed on the ancient woodland inventory. There has been no effective challenge or disagreement and subsequent revisions and re-surveys have only confirmed the original work. Furthermore this is a fact that can be easily checked in routine ecological searches.
So, the benefits of roads are asserted while the evidence points in the opposite direction. Whilst the damage is hidden, ignored and downgraded, sometimes with assertions made in absence of any evidence.How can an independent observer come to a sensible conclusion in the face of such skewed evidence?
Sussex Wildlife Trust have been going through all the documentation provided by the Arundel A27 consultation and we are shocked by the environmental devastation caused by the three proposals and the poor use of ecological evidence. We are writing a thorough response to the consultation and we are asking you to contact Highways England by the 16 October and let your views be known.