Updated 24 July 2017


South Coast Against Roadbuilding

Supporting Sustainable Mobility

Worthing bypass - some of the history.


Worthing West Sussex a town of some 90.000 peaceful souls, sits snugly on the south facing slopes of the South Downs and the English Channel. And that's the problem. For some strange reason people want to travel through this paradise in their cars and lorries on a road called the A27, instead of being sensible and letting the train take the strain. Albeit ancient, it's quite a good frequent service running parallel to the A27.

As the years rolled by and due to the predict and provide road building policy of successive governments, traffic increased. This demand for more road space was met by pinching countryside and dualling the A27 either side of Worthing. As we have all come to expect, those who make decisions have very little in the common sense department. They clearly failed to latch on to the fact that all this extra traffic would cause chaos, as it wound it's way through the north of the town on a single carriageway road build for the Austin 7 (for those under 80 the Austin 7 was a 7 horse power, peoples carriage). 

Although the dualling previously mentioned took place mainly over the last 35 years, even by the late 1940's the cry went up 'We must have a bypass'. No-doubt the reaction was, Ah yes excellent idea, but wait a moment aren't the South Downs protected or something. No only sheep graze there came the reply from those demanding to drive everywhere when they wanted. If we build a dual carriageway across the downs people will be able to admire the view, or the land could be opened up for factory's and houses. 

And this is where those who sowed the first seeds of the campaign to protect the downs around Worthing and Lancing from the road builders enter.

Ironically the first group to be formed in about 1922, were campaigning for a bypass, not one through the downs but one around Sompting, a small village between Worthing and Lancing. However as this was seen by many as encroaching onto the south slope of the downs close to historic St Mary's Church,  the first true local anti-road group was formed in the area about 1925 but sadly the bypass was given the go-ahead in 1926.

As we now know the Sompting bypass was eventually built (in part for fear that Tank Transporters couldn't get along the narrow road through Sompting during the build up for War). However it was built as mainly single carriageway, full dualling didn't arrive until 1960.

At this point it's of interest to note that, that bypass is now overwhelmed by traffic. Vehicles are now using the original road through Sompting to bypass the jams on the bypass and in the process causing mayhem in narrow West Street Sompting. (seem familiar - Arundel? see: www.scar-uk.co.uk/arundel.htm )

Clearly all this goes to prove that we can not build our way out of congestion - even the government agrees. So why oh why don't they learn from what history tells them? Must we have once again all the direct action seen at places like Twyford Down and Newbury? It certainly looks as though that's what is on the cards for the Worthing area if the road building lobby get their way.

But will they get their way? Not if SCAR has anything to do with it!

Lets take a look back, because it was in 1967 when West Sussex County Council launched a 3 year study into a bypass for the Worthing area that things started to hot up. That study failed to gain support so between 1972 and 1980 consultants worked on a second and third study, yet came up with basically the same scheme. A road on a similar line to the existing road but straighter and wider.

Yet again this approach brought howls of protest, so once again more consultants were commissioned. On June 27, 1988 the consultants Howard Humphries announced the result of their study, yes you've guessed it, they too suggested the same in-line route. However this time despite all the protests and the so called public consultations, the Government announced that this was their preferred route. What followed was a Public inquiry which lasted from September, 1993 until August, 1994, - breaking the record for the longest-running DoT inquiry in the South East in the process.

Then what came next, can only be described as a Whitehall farce, for despite all the efforts of the towns MP and town dignitaries, the Government remained tight lipped on the Inquiry Inspectors report. Then on Tuesday, November 26 1996, over 2 year after the end of the Inquiry, it was announced that the bypass scheme had been axed by the Government.

Talk about the preverbal hitting the fan, there was uproar. You see the town was divided not only by the physical presence of the A27, but also by the opposing sides in the controversy. On one hand there was Worthing Borough Councils A27 sub-committee which supported a bypass which cut through the Downs. Then there was a group of countryside lovers who formed a group called 'Stop Trunk Roads Across Protected Downs' (STOP) who wanted the road to go anywhere but the Downs, and finally SCAR, Worthing Friends of the Earth, The Worthing Green Party and Worthing Against Motorways (WAM), who were all against any road being built.

Said the towns MP Sir Terence Higgins who had campaigned for years for a bypass: 'I am profoundly disappointed that as a result of the Inspector's decision into the future of the A27, a bypass will not be built. It is so sad for all those who campaigned so hard and long for a bypass'.

Leading STOP campaigner and West Sussex County Councillor Chris Hare said: 'I'd like to see the government spend the money on improving public transport. But we know that's not going to happen. We live in a car culture and by the time the road would have been built, it would have been out of date anyway because the number of cars on the roads increases every year'.

Speaking for the no road side, SCAR's Ian Brookes said: 'Has the government at last come to its senses? Do they now accept all the evidence we have laid out before them, that they will never be able to build their way out of road congestion. As I had hoped, we proved to the Inspector the scheme was poor value for money and in-fact the estimated cost of 125million was a gross under estimate. We were convinced this scheme was clearly a waste of taxpayer money and I would like to think the government agreed with us' 

It was later revealed, that from when consultants Howard Humphries started on the scheme in June 1988 to the end of the Inquiry, the cost to the taxpayer was 30million. Comprising of the 212 homes bought by the Highways Agency, of which many were to be demolished had the scheme proceeded. Legal and design fees and an estimated 30 tons of documents. And not one meter of tarmac was laid!


This has come about following the publishing of the South Coast Multi Modal Study (SoCoMMS) (available at: www.socomms.org.uk) carried out by Halcrow consultants on behalf of the Government Office South East (GOSE).

This study was supposed to give us a vision of sustainable transport for the future, Instead, after around 18 months of research at the taxpayers' expense, they come up with 'build more roads'! the long discredited view of how to tackle traffic congestion. (e.g. above).

The report suggests major road building projects that will damage the proposed South Downs National Park and other protected areas and increase the regions traffic problems rather than solving them. The final report even ignored the study's own research into alternative ways of dealing with our traffic problems to come up with this 'solution' and even shamefully watered down proposals for improvements in public transport.

The consultants found that the most effective way of reducing congestion along the South Coast would be an area wide congestion charging scheme. They found that this could reduce car traffic by 6% - by far the most effective method tested. Despite this finding, the report discounts this approach and instead suggests only local road charging schemes in Brighton, Portsmouth and Southampton along with controversial road building proposals such as the Hastings to Bexhill link road, bypasses at Arundel and Worthing and a huge flyover at Beddingham amongst others.

We say the South Coast needs is a transport strategy that does not trade-off economic, environmental and social needs. The proposed road building would cause massive damage, particularly to the unique countryside of the South Downs and must not go ahead. These roads will actually increase congestion in the long term and encourage people to switch from public transport back into their cars. This would reduce rail and bus income making public transport companies reluctant, or unable, to invest in better services. These road schemes are even contrary to the objectives set out in the draft Regional Transport Strategy.

This last few paragraph's above were written about 2010.

Update. October 2014

Following the announcement in 2013 by George Osborne Chancellor of the Exchequer that money would be made available for road building, the Highway's Agency commenced yet another A27 Corridor Feasibility Study.

During the spring and summer of 2014 various Stakeholder Reference Group Meetings were held that involved the South Downs National Park Authority, The South Downs National Park Society,  The Coast to Capital LEP, West Sussex CC, CPRE Sussex, Campaign for Better Transport, East Sussex County Council, Natural England, Eastbourne Borough Council, South Downs Society, Arun District Council, Lewes DC, Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce, Sussex and Surrey Association of Local Councils and various M.P's from along the A27.

Also present were the: Department for Transport, Highways Agency and Parsons Brinckerhoff the consultants.

These reference group meetings are convened to discuss the findings of the route study group and at the meeting 27 August 2014 in Eastbourne heard that the following was being investigated for the Worthing - Sompting section:

Option A- Worthing and Lancing Tunnel

Option B- Tunnel at Worthing, dualling and junction improvements at Lancing

Option C- 4 lanes and bypass including junction improvements and turning restrictions at Worthing. Tunnel at Lancing

Option D- 4 lanes and bypass including junction improvements and turning restrictions at Worthing. Dualling and junction improvements at Lancing.

Option E- 4 lanes including junction improvements and turning restrictions at Worthing. Tunnel at Lancing

Option F- Public Transport Improvements only.

Update. July 2017. As we now know the Highways England consultants' have produced an 'Option' for the road, what will happen next will be interesting - heads will roll?

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