A27 BY-Pass project October 1988 by John Walker



This report was written back in 1988 by John as a part of his GCSE studies. A big "thank you" to him for sharing it with us originally at northlancing.com in 2007 and now here in 2012
The issue of the A27 by-pass still rumbles on today.

Do you remember the 1988 events?

Do you have any press cuttings or photos of this subject?

What is your opinion about a by-pass now?

Please let me know



In 1985 the Secretary of State for Transport appointed Consultants to carry out a fresh study of the A27 trunk road in Worthing and Lancing.  A full report showing four possible solutions for improving the road together with the Consultants recommended solution has now been submitted to the Secretary of State.

Argument has raged for many years over the A27 by-pass and it is by no means a new issue.  In 1977 a 'Blue Route' was proposed consisting of a four lane dual carriageway along Arundel Road over Offington roundabout and the golf course.  In this plan there was no provision for a tunnel at Lancing Ring and there was a lot of public pressure.  The oil crises at the time meant the volume of traffic using the road could not be guaranteed of increasing and the government had to scrap the plans.

At that time the road could not be justified in terms of capital expenditure but now the situation has changed and the amount of traffic using the A27 has grown beyond all expectations. Most people agree that something will have to be done about the amount of traffic using the A27 however the consultants proposals have caused much controversy.  This is because there are only two types of land they can choose between, the countryside of the South Downs and the residential areas of Worthing, Sompting and Lancing.

Above. The cover from John's 1988 project

There is little doubt a by-pass will be built and there is no way it can suit everybody. For the proposals to be successful a satisfactory balance must be found.

In this enquiry I shall attempt to find out if the disruption that will be caused by the road will be justified.


The A27 through Worthing and Lancing forms part of the South Coast trunk route which the Department of Transport is currently improving with a number of schemes. This particular section of the road requires a by-pass because at the moment it has a dual purpose; it serves the residential and industrial areas of Worthing and Lancing as well as being a link in the South coast trunk road for through traffic. To find out how great the volume of traffic is on the A27 I took a traffic survey at Lancing Manor roundabout.

I have condensed the information to show the amount of traffic using the roundabout in all directions in a fifteen minute interval.                            


Above. The original planned routes by colour

16th August 1988. (Weekday)

Description of traffic flow

Volumes of each traffic category

  Lorries, Vans and Tankers Buses and Coaches Cars Motor Cycles and Scooters
Traffic all directions (15 mins.) 8.00 a.m 223 7 1072 10
Traffic all directions (15 mins) 12.00 Midday 298 0 901 13
Traffic all directions (15 mins.) 5.00 pm 221 18 1770 41

The results of this survey show that the A27 through Lancing is used by a lot of commercial vehicles and people going to and from work.  It is unlikely that many of these vehicles would be stopping in Lancing so the amount of this sort of traffic would be greatly cut if a quicker route in the form of a by-pass was provided.

A by-pass would also make it much easier for those people who live on or near the A27 as they find it very difficult to get to their houses at present. Due to the demise of the London docks a lot of timber and other imported supplies are delivered to Shoreham or Newhaven and then transported by road.

Some local residents have even claimed that the by-pass is being built to accommodate traffic from the channel tunnel but it is unlikely that many extra vehicles will come to this area as a result of that. The question is, does all this justify the new road development?


Four possible solutions to the A27 problem were presented by the Government's consultants.  However, other points such as tunnels under Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and interchanges to rejoin with the existing network have been left as details.

In parts of the continent many of the roads go underground.  A tunnel under Lancing Hill would greatly reduce the impact the by-pass would make on the environment and would only cost a small percentage of the overall expenditure. A possible tunnel under Lancing Hill. All the leaflet shows is the area that each of the four routes would go through.


Above. 1988 photo of Lancing Manor roundabout

Route 1. Outer Findon Route (Yellow on Map)

This route has gained some popularity because it only involves the demolition of two houses but it would have the greatest impact on the environment, however, as it is entirely within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty particularly in the Long furlong valley and at Cissbury Ring.  It is the furthest away from the urban area, but would offer the poorest return on investment.  In an interview I had with him Councillor Cliff Robinson; explained why:

"The outer routes would not attract traffic because the further you put the by-pass out of the urban area the less traffic will use it. Statistics gathered over many years have pointed to the fact that somewhere between 70 - 75% of traffic presently using the A27, whether eastbound or westbound is traffic originating in or moving between Brighton and Littlehampton.  We want as much as possible of that traffic to use the by-pass, where as if the by-pass followed any of the outer routes the traffic would not be prepared to use them and go three miles out of their way, they would just use the existing route and that would mean the by-pass would soon be a total failure."

Route 2. Findon Gap Route (Blue on Map)

The same arguments also apply to this route. The route has proved popular with the public (although there has been some campaigning against it in Findon). However this route is also totally unpractical and would just not get used.

Route 3. Inner with Lancing by-pass  (Green on Map)

This plan has been agreed by. both the Department of Transport and the local council, as the most practical route.  However, to call it a by-pass is not really correct as it goes behind Lancing and Sompting but through the Worthing district. With this in mind I again asked Cllr.  Ciff Robinson if he supported his council's decision that the inner route with a Lancing by-pass was the best route. 

Above. Hill Barn Farm in North Lancing looking down towards The Adur

He agreed that it was with the condition that there was a tunnel under Lancing Hill.

"In 1976 when there was a similar dilemma many people would have favoured a similar route had the tunnel materialised but the government of the time was not prepared to give a tunnel once it had been suggested.  This then, became the stand of the District Council and that of many of the local populace."

Local pressure was definitely a factor in the scrapping of the 1975 plan but there were other considerations.  At the time there was an oil crisis and consultants were unsure whether car use would continue to rise or even remain at a steady rate.  Another factor was that the money was needed for the higher priority M25 London orbital road.

Route 4. Inner Route with On-Line at Lancing (Mauve on map)

This plan purely involves widening and upgrading the existing A27.  It affects very little open space and it is predicted it would attract most traffic.  However, the plan involves the demolition of 215 properties and would effectively split Lancing in two.


The A27 by-pass will have a big impact on the landscape around Lancing, Sompting and Worthing.  Apart from the road itself there will be new roundabouts and interchanges and some existing roads will be blocked off.

Lancing Valley

The by-pass will go down the valley rejoining with the existing network via an interchange near the Sussex Pad hotel.  There will be another interchange at Grinstead Lane and another at Bus tide Lane.


Although a lot of people will be affected by the A27 by-pass, it will be far worse for some than for others.  At least ninety families will lose their homes or find they are almost cut off, while others will find routes they use regularly will disappear.

One furious resident of Lancing is Mrs. Sylvia Barton.  She and her late husband gave 40 acres of land that make up Lancing Clump to the people of Lancing in 1949. Now she finds there are plans to build a road across the Clump as well as her own farm. Talking to a reporter from the Lancing Herald she said:

"We gave that land to the people - not for some new road.  The deeds said it was being given 'for the enjoyment of the people of Lancing for ever".  We must protect the Downs for our children and children's children."  Mrs Barton then went on to stress the shortage of open space in the area.  She has had no trouble finding support for her cause in Lancing.  Sompting villager Ted Luxford said 'Its wicked to think of going near the clump. It is in Worthing that most voices' have been raised in protest.  Through Worthing the plan is to widen the existing road demolishing houses on both sides.


Above. Mrs Barton as pictured in the local press

Action Committees have been set up to organise protests and these groups have used questionnaires to find out what people really think.  (see appendix)

An opportunity for local residents to air their views was provided at Lancing Manor Leisure Centre on 21st June 1988 from 2.00pm - 5-OOpm.  I attended this to get a better idea of the views of the local people as well as to have a chance to ask the consultants questions.  The mood was interested but at times angry and there were several heated confrontations as council representatives argued that those complaining about the by-pass rarely visited the South Downs anyway.

Available for examination was the full consultants report but as this was over and inch thick it gave no opportunity for detailed study.

As the road will go down Barton's valley, it will go very close to Lancing College and I brought this matter up when I spoke to Cllr. Robinson.  He said that although the by-pass would go over some of the college land it would not directly affect it.  The college would not be cut off as there would be bridges or tunnels connecting it with Lancing.  The headmaster of Lancing College does not agree with this viewpoint and is actively opposing the new road.

The original route that was proposed for the A27 by-pass involved going over Southwick Hill, but this land is owned by the National Trust.  The only way to overrule the Trust's decision is to take the matter to Parliament, but there is little chance of any M.P's voting against a national institution.  This proposal was scrapped but unfortunately the Trust does not own Lancing Clump.








Above. Protest group questionnaire filled in by the locals



For the completion of-this enquiry there are several conclusions which I will have to make.

(1)  Is there a definite need for an A27 by-pass?

There is some congestion on the existing A27 although this does not seem to warrant the huge impact that the by-pass will cause. However, the M.O.T. consultants have forecast that the traffic on the A27 is set to increase in volume.  As the road is a multi-million pound project the M.O.T. must believe that there is a real need and I have to agree with them.

(2) Which is the best of the four routes proposed?

Of the four routes put forward by the consultants the only one that is at all practical is the Inner Route with the Lancing by-pass.  This route however, is very unpopular with the residents of Worthing and is only acceptable to Lancing with a tunnel under Lancing Hill.  I feel this route is the best of a bad bunch.

(3) What impact will the by-pass have?

The by-pass will have a large impact on the whole area, particularly during the construction stages.  Landscaping will be needed along with additional open space to compensate for that taken.  The new road is now inevitable but pressure will have to be maintained to make sure that the best result for the whole area is achieved.


Councillor and Mrs. Robinson, Lancing Herald, Worthing Guardian, Evening Argus, The Staff of Lancing Manor Leisure Centre, Mrs. Sylvia Barton and Mrs. M. Walker (typist).


Interview with Cllr. Cliff Robinson (S.L.D.) (Local and W.S.C.C.) and Cllr. Mrs M. Robinson (Local) 6.45-pmon 1st September 1988.

Q.  What do you think will be the main advantages and disadvantages to Lancing after the new by-pass is built.

Well I think it cannot be disputed that the traffic growth on the A27 in recent years has exceeded all expectations, so therefore if the road is not improved in whatever location then it means life will become very hard not only for vehicles using the A27 through Lancing and Worthing but also it will have a severe environmental impact on those people living on or near the present road.  There would be a huge benefit on moving the main A27 some distance away.  Any disadvantages would be environmental but it is a case of weighing up the disadvantages.  For example if the road was to be improved along its existing route the disadvantages would be tremendous, it would in fact bisect clean through Lancing and divide North Lancing from the rest of the town. 



Above. Lancing Parish Council questionnaire on the proposals

Furthermore to provide a means for traffic to get from north to south and visa versa there would have to be three very large flyovers.  One at Sompting Church to serve the Steyning route.  Another at Bus tide Lane and quite a large one at Lancing Manor which would take up a very large part of the green area and would almost certainly cause the demolition of all those properties in the lower part of Manor Road as well as many houses along the existing route.

The disadvantages of going over the downs or behind the downs, whichever the case will be, is environmental and really nobody particularly welcomes any of the proposals, but it is a case of facing the facts. The green route, which is the route favoured by the consultants will be the least detrimental environmentally speaking and if we can secure from the D.o.T. the tunnel under the area of Lancing Ring, then I think we will have achieved a great deal in the conservation of the public open space around Lancing Hill and around Sompting.  The outer routes would not attract traffic away from the existing A27, as the further you put the by-pass out of the urban area the less traffic will use it.  Statistics gathered over many years have pointed to the fact that somewhere between 70 - 75% of traffic presently using the A27 whether eastbound or westbound is traffic originating or moving between Brighton and Littlehampton.  We want as much as possible of that traffic to use the by-pass, where as if the by-pass followed any of the outer routes the traffic would just not go there.  If vehicles would have to go two or three miles out of their way they would just use the existing route and that would mean that the expense of the by-pass would be a total failure.

Q.  Are there any plans to replace the public open space taken by the new road?

Well, if the tunnel is achieved and this is suggested in the paper by the surveyors then there will be a minimum loss of public open space.  But in the event of public open space being taken up in the building of the road then it is my understanding that the D.o.T. would compensate by providing further land to the local authority and Adur District Council welcomes the prospect of any compensatory land.

Q.  Does not this mean that the compensatory land for land taken in Lancing may not actually be in Lancing?

I feel there is little doubt that it could be anywhere else.  As the route goes through private land the M.O.T. will inevitably have to buy land and what is left may not be suitable for building purposes.  This will possibly become compensatory public open space.  These are, matters of detail and will have to be thrashed out later.

Q.  Do you know what will happen to the Steyning Road over the Downs?

That road will still remain in existence.  Whether there will be any need for roads to pass either over or under is again a matter of detail

Q. Do you agree with your Council's opinion that the best route is the inner route with a Lancing by-pass as long as there is a tunnel under Lancing Ring?

Yes.  In 1976 when there was a very similar dilemma in front of us, many of us would have favoured a similar route had the tunnel materialised but the government of the time was not prepared to give a tunnel after it had been suggested to them.  This, therefore, became the stand of the district council and I think also of the local populace.  Furthermore it could be argued at that time (1975 - 1976) there was a world oil crises and we could not guarantee that there were enough supplies to sustain the volume of traffic and so there was a very good argument at that time that the road could not be justified in terms of capital.  The situation has now changed as we have various supplies of energy and that the traffic has again grown beyond all expectations.

Q. Was the 1976 plan also scrapped because money was needed for the London Orbital Road (M25)?

Well, that could easily have been a factor.  I think there was such an outcry in this area against the plan the Government took the sensible view that there were other areas deserving trunk roads and motorways with less resistance and so it was a fairly logical step for them to shelve the plan, and go elsewhere. There was still extremely strong opposition to the M25 and before it could be built there were many long enquiries.

Q.  Do you know the views of Lancing College on the road as it will practically cut them off?

I have had no direct contact with the college although I would expect the proposed highway down Barton's valley would go through part of the College's ground, cutting off Hoe Court from the College, but I do not expect this will make a big difference.


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