Halt damaging Arundel bypass, says Friends of the Earth CEO

Transport Secretary also urged to scrap Highways England 
  Published:  21 Oct 2019    |      4 minute read

Friends of the Earth chief executive, Craig Bennett has written to Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, urging him to halt plans to build an Arundel bypass because of its environmental and community impacts. A consultation into the route ends this Thursday (24 October).

Earlier this month Craig Bennett joined local residents in a walk among the ancient woodlands and water meadows that are under threat from the planned road.

The Arundel Bypass is highly likely to damage the South Downs National Park. More broadly, building a new dual carriageway will only lead to increased traffic emissions when time to deal with the climate crisis is fast running out. The bypass is also part of wider plans to add extra capacity to the A27 along the south coast.

In his letter to Mr Shapps, Craig Bennett also calls for Highways England to be replaced with a new body which has a mission to deliver high quality sustainable, low carbon transport infrastructure and services which meets the needs of people and the environment in the 21st century. The full letter can be viewed at the bottom of this release.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of Friends of the Earth, said:

“I was shocked by all the options put forward by Highways England around Arundel. They would severely impact local communities, the South Downs National Park, and ancient woodland of the Arun valley – all while fuelling wider climate breakdown.

“We are facing a climate and nature emergency, so we need a radical reform of the Department for Transport. The department’s approach to solving local transport issues is to give the job to Highways England whose main remit is to build and maintain roads. Naturally the only solution they ever come up with is to build more and bigger roads.

“Transport is the UK’s biggest source of climate-wrecking emissions. The road-building scheme of Highways England will only make this worse. It’s time to replace it with a new body which has a mission to deliver high quality, low carbon transport infrastructure and services.”

ENDS

For more information and interview requests contact the Friends of the Earth press office on 020 7566 1649 / 07718 394786 (out of hours – please do not text this number) [email protected]

Notes to editors:

  1. For background on the environmental impact that would come from the Arundel Bypass visit https://www.arundelbypass.co.uk/

 

Full text of letter


The Rt Hon Grant Shapps

Secretary of State for Transport

21 October 2019

Dear Secretary of State,

I am writing to you for two reasons. Firstly I would like you to consider instructing Highways England to halt plans for an Arundel bypass for the reasons below.

Secondly, I am deeply concerned about the Department for Transport’s approach to solving local transport issues which is to give the job to Highways England whose main remit is to build and maintain roads. Naturally the only solution they ever come up with is to build more and bigger roads. We are facing a climate and nature emergency and there is an urgent need for a radical reform of the way the Department for Transport approaches these issues.

Highways England is not able to do what is needed and should be replaced by a body that is capable of delivering or commissioning sustainable transport solutions that do not harm nature and help to deliver on the UK’s international and national climate change commitments.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the delightful town of Arundel and the surrounding countryside. The area is beautiful and is much valued by residents and visitors alike. I was shocked by the options being put forward by Highways England all of which would severely impact local communities, the South Downs National Park, ancient woodland and the wildlife rich water-meadows of the Arun valley. I am also concerned that all of Highways England’s options will increase traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. It will also increase pressure for more road building either side of Arundel which would further increase traffic growth and emissions.

As I’m sure you are aware, transport is the only sector where emissions have increased since 1990 and is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK – accounting for 27% of emissions. It is no longer credible for Highways England to ignore this issue and to claim that in comparison to the overall carbon budget the increase is minimal. The cumulative impact of successive road building has been to stimulate increasing emissions not just on each road but in the surrounding areas as well. This is not considered in Highways England’s calculations. This context cannot be ignored when making a decision at Arundel, especially when the Highways England’s options predate the new legally binding climate change target.

Given the environmental sensitivities locally, nationally and globally there should have been proposals aiming to stabilise or reduce traffic whilst decreasing emissions and avoiding harm to ancient woodland and the National Park. This approach would conform with the policies within the National Policy Statement for National Networks which seem to have been selectively applied to date. The narrow remit of Highways England has denied the opportunity for a thorough assessment of all the options. This was demonstrated by the A27 feasibility studies which failed to commission any serious review of alternative options, purely looking at existing spending commitments. Similarly, around the country we are seeing the same outdated approach such as the A5036 in Liverpool, the A303 at Stonehenge and the A417 in the Cotswolds.

This is why I am asking you to replace Highways England with a new body which has a mission to deliver high quality sustainable, low carbon transport infrastructure and services which meet the needs of people and the environment in the 21st century.

I urge you to reconsider the plans at Arundel. The impacts on landscape, on wildlife and on local communities of any of the 6 options are too high a price to pay to save a few minutes of journey time, when better solutions have not been fully explored.

Yours sincerely,

Craig Bennett

Chief Executive Officer, Friends of the Earth