Campaigners in Arundel and Stonehenge have been joined by local residents and TV historians to condemn damaging new road expansion plans.
New reports on the six major government 'Feasibility Studies' were published on Thursday. On main roads from the A1 north of Newcastle to the A30 in Devon, the DfT's studies have concluded that big increases in road capacity are needed, despite growing evidence that traffic is levelling off.
Historians line up to protect Stonehenge
The new reports confirm that the Government is pressing ahead with plans for a short (1.8 mile) tunnel through the Stonehenge World Heritage site.
We're part of the Stonehenge Alliance and their activist Kate Freeman was joined on a visit to the site today by prominent historians Dan Snow, Tom Holland and Ruth Scurr who condemned the plans. Last month Tom Holland also joined us at the British Museum to help leaflet the visitors.
Dan Snow, who is also President of the Council for British Archaeology said today:
"Around the world we see pictures of our fellow humans smashing the treasures of the past and count ourselves lucky that we live in a country which values its rich history and appreciates what it offers modern Britain. Our heritage helps us understand ourselves, how we got here and where we are going.
"Of all our many treasures on these islands, none is more internationally revered than Stonehenge. We have recently started to realise that the standing stones are just a beginning, they sit at the heart of the world's most significant and best preserved Stone Age landscape. The government's plans endanger this unique site."
Broadcaster and award-winning classical historian Tom Holland said:
“There is so much waiting to be learnt about how Stonehenge was built - if we decide, as a country, not to sacrifice it to road-building. The battle to save our most significant neolithic landscape is an unending one.”
A27 plans 'built on sand'
In Arundel residents and campaigners have reject the recommendations of the newly published report on the A27, deploring its lack of valid evidence and outdated thinking.
The A27 Corridor Feasibility Study, says there is a need to increase road capacity due to the predicted increase in traffic, but Arundel SCATE points out that the same predictions were made in the major 2002 A27 SoCoMMS study, which is referenced by this new report.
According to DfT's own figures, whilst the economy has grown significantly since then, the predicted expansion in traffic hasn't happened. Traffic levels in West Sussex have actually fallen since 2000. Traffic along the A27 itself has stayed about level.
Local businessman and Arundel resident, Simon Gray, is concerned by poor value for money of proposals. He says:
"There is no economic justification for spending the bulk of allocated funds on a controversially damaging road scheme at Arundel, when a far cheaper and less intrusive scheme could relieve choke points here.' He added, 'Building such an expensive road so that traffic can arrive at nearby choke points at Fontwell and Worthing a minute or so earlier, seems a very poor use of public funds."
The report recommendations have limited the A27 Arundel improvements to two options, both away from the existing road and cutting across the Arun Valley.
The residents' group wants to see other options discussed, to include junction and traffic flow improvements to the current A27.
Contrary to previous claims by elected representatives, the new report also admits that building a dual carriageway bypass to Arundel does mean increased noise and air pollution, along with increased traffic volume. Other 'adverse impacts' include: wildlife, landscape, historic environment, carbon emissions and waterways.
Arundel SCATE Chair and local businesswoman, Sue White, says:
"We all understand frustrations at peak times at Arundel, but these can be significantly improved by junction improvements around Crossbush and, of course, there is the new A259 road at Bognor which will impact on traffic in the area. Traffic is fairly free flowing for much of the time. People in Arun need investment in public transport for the majority who don't have daily access to a car."