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A29 decision to be delayed

WEST SUSSEX County Council has been asked to delay decisions about changes to the A29 until a public consultation has ended.


In an attempt to tackle the congestion along the road, plans are in place for a new 4.34km stretch east of Eastergate, Westergate and Woodgate.


The plans include a bridge to ease the pressure at the notorious Woodgate level crossing, where delays of 35 minutes have been known during peak hours.


However, concerns have been raised about the spiralling cost of the scheme, the route and level of consultation.


A decision to approve the scheme was made by Cllr Roger Elkins, cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, but it was called in for further discussion by members of the county Labour group.


That decision included launching a public consultation, which led to questions from Cllr Michael Jones (L, Southgate & Gossops Green) at a meeting of the environment, communities and fire select committee, in Chichester on Wednesday.


The committee told Mr Elkins it wanted him to withdraw the decisions he had made until all information from the public consultation had been considered.


Cllr Jones asked how anything could be approved before the views of the public taken were into account.


It was an opinion shared by about a dozen residents, who made their views clear during the meeting. In December, 2017, the road’s cost was estimated at £35.1m – that figure is now £55.5m.


Cllr Jones told the meeting that questions were being asked about whether the scheme ‘stacked up’.


He also questioned the wisdom of the council underwriting phase two by £42.5m.


He said “I’m concerned that a few years down the line we may be regarding this as something that did not do the council any financial favours.”


The safety of people living in Shripney was also raised. While recognising the need for the improvements to the A29, Cllr Francis Oppler (LD, Bognor Regis E) said the lives of some villagers would be ‘put at risk’. Their driveways back on to the road. He feared the increase in traffic from thousands of new homes planned for the route would make leaving their houses dangerous.


The plan is for the new road to run from Fontwell Avenue, north of Eastergate, to the existing A29 Lidsey Road, north of Shripney.


Cllr Oppler called for an alternative route to bypass Shripney, cross Sack Lane and link into the Rolls-Royce roundabout.


But Cllr Elkins told members the preferred route had been put forward in 2014 and the council was ‘not likely to make any substantive changes to it’.


Stressing the scheme’s importance to businesses, he said: “This is a significant scheme. It will provide a much-needed link from the Bognor Regis area and will ease the congestion around the [Woodgate] level crossing. There will clearly be environmental improvements in that area.”


by Karen Dunn, local democracy reporter

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