There has been a huge amount of support for this approach from all quarters and it is really heartening to have so many offers of help and interest.
We, the community in and around Chichester, have the opportunity to put our thoughts and ideas on a blank sheet of paper and speak with one collective voice to secure improvements which are so desperately needed.
The A27 affects all our lives in one way or another, but it is not just about this single road and its traffic – it’s about transport in the local area in general as well as issues such as air quality.
From experience I know that community based solutions are the best ones and that is what we will be looking for in the forthcoming workshops.
It is a community led approach and not for the County Council alone. But we know that we will need some expert help and advice at some stage. At the last workshop it was agreed that it was important that this advice is independent and can offer a different approach and fresh thinking. The County Council will help make this happen and ensure those requirements are met and that is why £100,000 has been put aside for this purpose so we can help our communities to help themselves.
Some may ask why didn’t you do this last year? The reason is quite simple – the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, commissioned Highways England to develop schemes for the A27 – the County Council’s role was a statutory consultee, Highways England prepare plans and then consult. It is a format that they adhere to and we had no power to change this.
We know the results of the consultation showed 47% said ‘no option’ and that is where we are. Some people take a negative view saying it will take 10 years plus before a further allocation of funding and it is all too difficult.
Having listened and read the many comments I know how much people wanted to be involved to have their voice heard to make sure we had the best solution.
Now we need as a community to come together to find those solutions - short, medium, and long term – so the Secretary of State and Highways England know we can work together, and that we, as a community, can find the right answer for our residents and our beautiful city.
It is a bold vision but it is the right thing to do and I look forward to our first proper workshop event and more to come, judging by the considerable positive comments many others feel the same.
So a big bold step for all of us but we need to take it to find big bold solutions.
I will keep you posted.