Build a better A27 – situation summary, assessment and recommendation
This document has been drawn up over the last year by representatives of the local community supported by the local councils with professional help by Systra, an engineering consultancy. It will be considered by West Sussex County Council in the next two weeks.
The Trust’s policy on the A27 upgrade has been that we can not offer any views on the various plans unless they have a direct impact on the canal. We did make our views clear on the plan to have a bridge across the canal in the 2017 consultation. With Build a Better A27, no one has approached us in the last year on the subject, and rightly or wrongly, we have not placed a priority on such developments.
The document gives just 20 words to the canal, but is suggesting that the canal “move or sink” to give more room for the A27 near the Stockbridge crossing. This is causing the Canal Trust major concern.
The beauty of the canal is that, despite the current A27 bridge, everyone is in rural England immediately after they turn from the Basin. If “move or sink” were adopted, that peace will be disrupted by the prolonged period of building works that would be necessary.
If it is “sink”, which I assume is a lock, I would imagine that construction would take up to 2 years. In that time, we would not be able to run our trip boats. Rowing would be severely restricted and canoeists and paddle boarders would have to walk their craft around the works. Walkers and cyclists would also be inconvenienced. We would lose at least £160,000 a year or c 60% of our income. The loss of service awareness would not be instantly recovered when we restarted and would take some years to rebuild. With less activity, we would also lose a significant number of our 165 volunteers, who, having much less to do, would drift away to other activities. It would take some time to find replacements when the canal reopened.
The arrival of a lock would also change the basic structure of our regular trip boat service. At the moment, the trip to Donnington and back takes 1 hour 15 minutes. That time is about right for those wanting an interesting and relaxed trip. Children do tend to get bored beyond that time. To have to go through a lock twice a trip will add up to 45 minutes to the journey. The extra time will be a disincentive to buying tickets. Our sales and income will inevitably go down.
The Trust would seek major compensation for loss of income.
A lock would also need maintenance, particularly if water needed to be pumped. As this inevitable cost would be due to a new road, the relevant central or local government agency would have to pay. It would not be for the Trust to take on this responsibility,
The possibility of a lock MUST be rejected.
The idea of a “move” towards the east is marginally better, but still to be avoided if at all possible. Again, there will be disruption, but perhaps not for so long. The new line can be constructed and then opened to the canal when nearing completion. I assume that canal closure would be shorter, but would still probably be months. Again, a significant loss of income will still occur.
Given the inability of planners to come to the Trust on this project (as they have not on the Southern Gateway), I need to point out here and elsewhere if the concept moves forward and the “move” option were to be adopted, it would need to be a substantial and lengthy structure.
The Chichester Ship Canal and its trip boats are not the standard sizes that are found throughout Britain. The word “ship” is the clue. Our canal is wider and deeper than others. Our trip boats are not narrow boats, but are much wider. The new cut would need to take gentle diversion over a significant length to allow a safe line of site to enable our skippers to see and be seen by other water users.
The “move” solution would also see a significant loss in countryside, which would take many years to replace. I am sure that the Chichester Natural History Society and other environmental groups would have strong views on that.
I hope that I have been able to express the Trust’s very serious concern about the “move or sink” concept. Suffice to say that I am taking opportunities as they arise to make the Trust’s views known to Chichester District and West Sussex County Councils.
There are fundamental issues on the future of the Trust and the canal that have yet to be considered. The canal is only a minor part of the A27 problem and not going to be a serious concern for many involved. However, in the words “move or sink”, there is a huge threat to this part of Chichester life.
Chichester Ship Canal Trust
….. and some timely input from a local resident