Monday, 25 February 2019

Not much to worry about.....

Any environmental risks associated with a new dual carriageway between Lewes and Polegate ?

Don't take my word for it. This is a list developed by Highways England's own consultants, WSP, dated April 2018.

  • Much of the existing A27 East of Lewes lies within, or immediately adjacent to, the South Downs National Park (SDNP), so the views of the surrounding landscapes are therefore sensitive; 
  • Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) have been declared for Lewes Town Centre and Newhaven; 
  • There are a number of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) close to the existing A27, as well as Special Area of Conservation (SAC) sites at Lewes Downs and Polegate, a RAMSAR site at Polegate, a number of National and Local Nature Reserves, parcels of ancient woodland and the likely presence of European protected species; 
  • Flood Zones 2 and 3 are located within the study area, including near to Lewes and Polegate, and on the Cuckmere between Berwick and Wilmington; and 
  • 12 Noise Important Areas, including 4 at the A22/A2270 junction at Polegate; 
  • There are numerous Listed Buildings and Scheduled Ancient Monuments alongside or in close proximity to the existing A27; and 
  • Most of the area is good quality agricultural land but there are a number of disused landfill sites adjacent to the road near Lewes. 
Environmental Risks 8.7.3. 

The followings risks have been identified for the project from design through to construction: 
  • There is a risk that access will be denied to offsite areas for environmental surveying, resulting in delays to the project. 
  • There is a risk that the scheme will adversely affect the landscape within the South Downs National Park, resulting in objections from key stakeholders including the South Downs National Park authority. 
  • The scheme could result in adverse effects on the setting of; numerous Listed Buildings and Scheduled Ancient Monuments alongside or in close proximity to the existing A27. 
  • There is potential for adverse effects on sites which are designated for ecological conservation such as, SSSIs close to the existing A27, as well as SAC sites at Lewes Downs and Polegate, a RAMSAR site at Polegate, a number of National and Local Nature Reserves, parcels of ancient woodland and the likely presence of European protected species; resulting in objections from Natural England. 
  • There is potential for effects on, or loss of, BAP habitats, including Ancient Woodland, Deciduous Woodland, and Floodplain Grazing Marsh resulting in objections from a key stakeholder. 
  • There is a risk of unknown/unanticipated archaeological finds or sites, being found in the construction area, which may delay construction. 
  • The options located near to residential properties, increasing the risk of adverse effects as a result of increased noise levels and decreased air quality on sensitive receptors, which may result in objections from local residents. ¡ 
  • There is a risk of unforeseen environmental constraints and local condition that have the potential to give rise to the need for additional studies e.g. the presence of protected species, invasive species, adverse ground water conditions or the presence of contamination. These unforeseen constraints may result in delays to the project and additional costs. 
8.7.4. The Scheme is currently at the options identification stage and mitigation proposals have not yet been identified. Avoidance will be adopted where possible.  Any mitigation measures proposed will aim to comply with HE objectives of achieving no net loss of biodiversity by 2020 and net biodiversity gain by 2040.  Once the likely impact on environmental assets has been identified and options agreed for the route, suitable mitigation measures will be proposed.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Polegatti Junction

I wonder if the residents of Polegate would like to talk to their elected politicians about a new dual carriageway for the A27 between their hometown and Lewes. The junction of the new A27 and A22 would require 'grade separation', and the preferred solution in current design guidelines is a three level interchange, likely to cover at least a square kilometre of land. And not likely to solve the problems for those turning into Eastbourne.

Where two major roads cross, a 3 level arrangement with a roundabout sandwiched between the two major flows, should be considered as an alternative to an interchange.  Its advantages are that both the overall land take and the carriageway area are greatly reduced. The disadvantages are that structure costs are high and if the turning movements become greater than predicted, operational problems such as queuing on the roundabout entries can result. If queuing does become a problem, segregated left turn lanes and restricted circulatory carriageway width should be considered before traffic signals are installed. The inclusion of a specific link, as a remedial measure to remove a heavy right turn movement, is rarely a practical solution on either cost or environmental grounds.

Sticking together

Happy days ahead for key members of the A27 Reference Group, Councillor Keith Glazier and ESCC's Rupert Clubb.

Determined women

Just a reminder of where this all started - two MPs campaigning for re-election....

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Going up

At last, some information about the bid to build a new dual carriageway between Lewes and Eastbourne, driven by a pressure group of local politicians, and currently lodged with the Transport Department - it might or might not cost as much, or more, as £528m.

Let you give you the exact words provided by Mahmood Azer, Head of Network Strategy and Development Highways England, in response to my most recent Freedom of Information enquiry. 

"The east of Lewes off-line study investigated the need (or otherwise) for an off-line improvement between Lewes and Polegate. To inform this, strategic cost estimates were produced  for  different  off-line  improvements  (including  both  single  and  dual carriageways). The ‘most likely’ cost range from these strategic estimates was between £271  million  and  £528  million.  These  estimates  include  the  base  estimate,  risk adjustment and inflation, and are based on Quarter 1 2016 prices. We have shared this cost estimate range with the Department for Transport.  

"The  strategic  cost  estimates  reflect  that  the  study  is  an  early  investigation.  They  are based on a lower level of detail and definition than would be available at later stages, and they would get refined if further scheme development work is undertaken. It is worth noting that if it is decided to undertake further work beyond this study, the specific options to take forward to public consultation would be identified at later stage."

Written with the precision of a trained engineer, it's not clear from Mr Mahmood if inflation since 2016 has been added - the Government's construction index suggests you could apply 7%, taking us to £565m. You'll note Mr Mahmood deliberately shys away from saying what his investigation into the 'need' for a new road found.

This puts the bid now in the secure hands of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, who's demonstrated his judgement and insight in the role already, with railways, ferries and drones.  Should he really be the only one who decides how to spend £23bn on England's road network, or should we have some independent and informed deciding what's in the best interests of our treasured yet disappearing countryside ?

Thursday, 7 February 2019


This is a rather long post, but very important. It demonstrates clearly that the A27 Reference Group, which sounds like an important component of responsible transport planning, is in fact a self-selecting bunch of politicians determined to bully through a new dual carriageway from Lewes to Polegate, with little regard for cost and none for the environment. It is also a sad tale of the people who have jumped to their aggressive bidding.

After pressure at public meetings, Maria Caulfield, MP, current chair of the Reference Group, has instructed East Sussex County Council to publish the minutes of four meetings of this group. It's clear from the start that they were frustrated to have a £450m bid for the new road turned down in 2016. The Department for Transport agreed with its qualified advisors that it was poor value for money and bad for the environment. The MPs were more than miffed, and set about having another go.  Here's a selection from the minutes, with my comments and notes in italics.

From the redacted minutes of A27 Reference Group meeting July 2016

"Both CA [former Conservative MP for Eastbourne Caroline Ansell] and BS [Cllr Bob Standley, Leader, Wealden District Council] confirmed that the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Jones MP, is very positive about the proposed larger scheme and he has remained in post during the recent Cabinet reshuffle. "

"It has been agreed with the DfT [Department for Transport] that ESCC [East Sussex County Council] will take the lead in developing the scheme."

[This is already inappropriate - Highways England is the body which is responsible for the Strategic Road Network]

"XXXXXX [probably Rupert Clubb, Director of Communities, Economy and Transport, East Sussex County Council] is liaising with xxxxx who undertook the previous study and they are interested in the commission. So long as their brief/fee is acceptable then ESCC will commission them to update that element of the previous study. This will be funded from ESCC current budgets.

[One hopes this went through Council approvals - normally this would be HE spend]

"There have been positive discussions with the DfT and they recognise that they may have not taken into consideration certain things. Depending on the outcome, if successful, ESCC would co-locate a team to HE to produce a more detailed design."

From the redacted minutes of the A27 Reference Group meeting October 2016

This meeting was held at Portcullis House next to the House of Commons, and two officials from Highways England, and one from their transport consultants Atkins, were brought before the MPs and Councillors to be told what's what. 

"XX [Probably Rupert Clubb again] explained that he reviewed the impact of the proposed increase of housing and employment in the Hailsham/Polegate area. It is showing that offline dualling of the A27 is necessary to support the planned growth. 

"XXXX were commissioned to carry out work on a new benefit cost ratio. They used the same model and same scheme options as the 2014 study. The only thing that changed was the additional information from the housing identified in Wealden’s local plan. The result was a revised benefit cost ratio for option a (offline dualling) of XXXXX previously. XX explained that further work would be required to take the scheme forward as this is just a basic calculation.

[Remember, this is a council officer is using 2014 costs (in 2016) of £450m, then making the proposed road longer and more complex at Copthall and Southerham, and bingo, it's all suddenly value for money]

"HE [Highways England] confirmed that as they work for the DfT, they need instruction from them as to proceed in a different way if this is required.

[Brave Highways England, reminding the committee who they work for....]

"Next Steps
ACTION – ESCC will ensure DfT and HE have sight of the additional testing carried out by XX.
ACTION – XX will share the outcome of the review with the East Sussex MPs.
ACTION – The East Sussex MPs will approach Chris Grayling MP and the Treasury Team to put forward this information and lobby for the scheme to be in RIS2.

From the redacted minutes of the A27 Reference Group meeting September 2017

(Nothing much to report here, other than XX (again, Rupert Clubb) reporting on how he and the ESCC are driving fowards the A27 East of Lewes Study, meeting monthly with Highways England, who might think they're in charge, but we know better....)

"In terms of timescales for delivery, start of construction of an offline dual
carriageway would be towards the back end of the RIS2 period. It is likely it would
require a DCO [Development Consent Order] which includes a public inquiry. The negative environmental impact is where issues with a DCO would arise.

[You betcha !]

From the redacted minutes of the A27 Reference Group meeting February 2018

"XX  [probably Rupert Clubb again]  updated the group on progress regarding the A27 East of Lewes (EoL) Study.

"Scope includes the section between Southerham Roundabout and Beddingham Roundabout (online widening), Beddingham Roundabout to Cophall Roundabout (new offline route), and Cophall Roundabout (at-grade or grade-separation for east-west movements).

"Cllr Hollidge asked what could be the likely objections. XXXXX [no clues] advised that as long as there is clear mitigation around the environment they don't foresee major objections and the National Park are currently engaged. MC [Maria Caulfield] mentioned that Gatwick Airport is supportive as it helps their case for a second runway.

[Everyone is looking forward to the 'clear mitigation around the environment' for a road that will add at least 25% to pollution, and drive through sensitive wildlife habitats and landscapes largely unchanged since Roman times. How amusing that our in-touch politicians 'don't foresee major objections']

"Next Steps
ACTION - The A27 Reference Group will meet again in XXXX for Highways England to update on the business case.
ACTION - MP's to meet with the Minister for Transport regarding the business case in April
ACTION - and to draft a briefing for local stakeholders and possibly the media on the work being undertaken on the A27 East of Lewes.

[There are no minutes from the final meeting with Highways England.  The briefing for 'local stakeholders and possibly the media' was the first time residents were told that the plans for a new dual carriageway were all go again, after more than two years of secret planning and lobbying.]