Highways England has informed the South Downs National Park Authority that they intend to publish information on all route options for proposals for a bypass on the A27 at Arundel. They have confirmed this will include their analysis of all five route options inside and outside the National Park. They have said that their further consultation, in spring 2019, will give the public and stakeholders the opportunity to comment on ‘any detrimental effect on the environment, the landscape and recreational opportunities and the extent to which that could be moderated’ for all routes.
Margaret Paren, Chair of the South Downs National Park Authority, said:
“We are pleased that Highways England has now agreed to re-consult on options for the A27 bypass at Arundel. People should have the right to make informed comment based on all the information available and taking into account the National Park, including new evidence that Highways England will be tabling in the spring. Since this answers the reasons why the National Park Authority was pursuing a Judicial Review, this will now be withdrawn and I am pleased that Highways England are paying all of SDNPA’s legal fees incurred in bringing this challenge.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Did Highways England change their mind because the National Park Authority were pursuing a Judicial Review?
Highways England’s decision to re-consult recognises every point made in the National Park Authority’s claim for a Judicial Review and we believe they would not have offered this without our court challenge.
Will the new consultation change anything given that HE are maintaining Option 5a as their preferred route?
Highways England are legally obliged to consider all comments put forward through the new consultation and we urge people to look at all of the new evidence put forward and make their voices heard.
Has this process been an appropriate use of the National Park Authority’s time and money?
Given the National Park Authority’s statutory purposes and duty, the High Court recognised we had a case when they granted permission for a judicial review into HE’s preferred route for the A27 bypass at Arundel at the start of October 2018. We are pleased that Highways England have now agreed to run a new consultation on all route options in Spring 2019 and that they have agreed to pay the National Park Authority’s legal costs.
Does the SDNPA have a preferred route?
In their original evidence Highways England’s own environmental experts state that all proposed routes passing through the National Park would cause ‘significant damage’ to the National Park’s landscapes and special qualities. Their preferred route – Route 5A (amended) – would pass through the South Downs National Park, including an ancient woodland at Binsted.
We will look at all the evidence put forward and continue to work with HE to push for the best possible scheme for both road users and the National Park’s wildlife, heritage, access and habitats.
Do the SDNPA want to stop all road building in the National Park?
Contrary to what has been reported, the National Park Authority is not against a traffic solution at Arundel. We will continue to work constructively with Highways England so that they can find a solution to the traffic issues at Arundel that also protects the National Park for future generations in line with our statutory purposes and duty, including having discussions around mitigation and compensation measures.
What mitigation and compensation will be on offer?
The three routes proposed through the National Park present huge challenges if delicate habitats, rare wildlife, valuable access routes and irreplaceable heritage are to be protected. We look forward to seeing Highways England’s proposals to deal with this.
Why did the National Park Authority decide to pursue a Judicial Review?
The SDNPA did not commence proceedings for a judicial review lightly but we believed that Highways England did not follow the correct procedure. This may have led to them discounting options outside of the National Park too early in the process.
Paragraph 5.151 of the National Policy Statement on National Networks states that planning permission should be refused for major developments in National Parks except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated they are in the public interest. Consideration of these applications should include an assessment of the cost of, and scope for, developing elsewhere outside the National Park; and opportunities to moderate any detrimental effect on the environment, the landscape and recreational opportunities.
We did not believe that the process proposed by Highways England would have provided the Secretary of State with the necessary information to make a considered decision.
What are the National Park purposes and duty?
The Government has provided two statutory purposes for National Parks in England. All public bodies and utility companies, when undertaking any activity which may have an impact on the designated area, have a duty to have regard to these purposes which are:
- Purpose 1: To conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area.
- Purpose 2: To promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the National Park by the public.
The Government also places corresponding duties on the National Park Authority to have regard to the social and economic needs of its communities, and on statutory undertakers like Highways England in relation to the statutory purposes.