Questions submitted by members of the public in writing by noon on the previous working day (for a period up to 15 minutes).
Public questions about the improvement of the A27 were asked by Mr David Priscott and by Mr Ian Webster on behalf of Mr Jeremy Dry, and answered by Mr Tony Dignum (Leader of the Council) as follows:-
1. Question from Mr David Priscott
I understand that there are six options being considered by Highways England to solve the A27 problem – one of which will be “fast-tracked” to provide the solution. To date there has been little or no consultation with local people and businesses, or their representatives such as the parish councils. What steps will Chichester District Council take to facilitate early public consultation on the six options in order to arrive at a solution that is in the best interests of the City and surrounding areas?
2. Question from Mr Jeremy Dry, represented by Mr Ian Webster
Highways England is currently looking at the feasibility of a new northern expressway around Chichester as part of its strategic infrastructure plans for the United Kingdom. If this is approved, the existing A27 will be derestricted and it is likely that no national funding would be available to improve it. With ever tightening council budgets, improvements will be hard to justify from local funding. Highways England has previously estimated* that 80% of the traffic on the existing A27 is local and rush hour traffic jams on the existing road will remain a serious impediment to the local economy and people's daily lives. Notwithstanding the absence to date of any public consultation over the proposals, within the last week more than  people have signed an e-petition urging the council to support a series of upgrades and improvements to the existing A27 which will benefit the City and the wider area to both the north and south rather than the construction of a new northern expressway. (www.chichesterdeservesbetter)
· [See report Highways Agency and WSCC –Chichester Area and A27 transport Proposals -Public Consultation Report August 2005 paragraph 5.14]
Does the Council believe that the improvement of the existing A27 is the better way to protect the interests of the City of Chichester and the surrounding areas and still achieve unimpeded passage of through traffic?
Will the whole District Council have the opportunity to discuss and vote on what options for the A27 are in the best interests of the City and surrounding areas?
Replies by Mr Tony Dignum, Leader of the Council
To the Question from Mr David Priscott
Thank you for raising with the Council your question about the A27 improvement project.
As you will no doubt appreciate this is a project to be delivered by Highways England, not the District Council. To date, a few senior council members and senior officers have attended presentations by consultants engaged by Highways England to outline the approach to the project, identify key objectives and to understand the delivery timeline. The latest presentation, way back in June, identified six schemes that were likely to be considered for consultation prior to the determination of the ‘preferred option’. The Council had previously believed that the consultation would take place in the autumn of 2015, but clearly the timetable has slipped. It is understood that Highways England weren’t ready to consult in the autumn as the traffic modelling work had not yet been completed. It is important that there is sufficient technical information to enable Highways England to choose how many of the six options should be taken forward to the consultation process.
From a recent presentation to the City Council, the consultants now anticipate that a public consultation event will take place beginning in March 2016, for a period of up to six weeks. This will be managed by Highways England and I expect that the council will respond to the consultation after a debate by members in full Council. However, you will appreciate that the precise form of that response has not yet been considered. The results of the consultation will be assessed by Highways England who will then make its choice of preferred option route in July. Various legal processes have then to be completed to allow construction to start in August 2018 with opening of the new highway expected in 2021.
I must emphasise that the project is entirely a Highways England responsibility and the District Council‘s role is solely that of a statutory consultee, not decision-maker. Your complaints about a lack of consultation should be addressed to Highways England.
To the Question from Mr Jeremy Dry, represented by Mr Ian Webster
Thank you for your 2-part question.
As I said in my reply to Mr Priscott, the District Councilknows only the broad outlines of the six route options for the A27 around Chichester. It also does not know which options will go forward to consultation. It is therefore not yet in a position to recommend which option should be selected.
On your second part-question, I fully expect the choice of option recommended by the District Council to be made by the full Council after a debate.