ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners have slammed proposals for an Arundel bypass, warning that rare species and unique habitats will be lost.

Councillor Kay Wagland, speaking for the Arundel Scate residents’ association which opposes current solutions to the town’s congestion problems, told The Argus that building a larger road would generate greater traffic flows.

She said: “Our main concern is about loss of countryside and wildlife.

“These schemes will have a massive impact. There’s several species threatened - we’ve got dormice in the ancient woodland, which is a protected and endangered species, and we’ve got rare bats.”

Her campaign group rejects the three options and favours a widened singled-carriageway route through Arundel which would not increase capacity, but allow for the passing of obstructions.

A spokeswoman for the South Downs National Park said the trust’s members’ board would meet to discuss the proposals before issuing a response.

She said: “National planning guidance states that ‘major development’ (which would include building or widening trunk roads) in a National Park is unacceptable unless there is an overriding national interest and no alternatives are possible. All the routes proposed would go through parts of the National Park and we will be assessing their relative impacts upon it.”

A spokeswoman for Arun District Council said the council needed to “consider the options presented” before responding to Highways England.

On Tuesday Highways England launched their two-month-long public consultation on the project, offering the public three choices for improving traffic delays and air pollution in and around Arundel.

Known as Options 1, 3, and 5A - titles from earlier rounds of consultation which had more options - they offer either a dual carriageway through the town, a new road through the Downs, or a longer southern road which skirts the outskirts of the Downs.

The Arundel Bypass scheme qualifies as a “nationally significant infrastructure project” and therefore will be judged in accordance with the National Networks National Policy Statement (NNNPS) and has to tick certain boxes in order to be approved.

Many of the NNNPS policies will be directly contravened by at least two, and probably all three, of the routes on offer and therefore considerable justification will needed.

The “Ancient Woodland” policy of the NNNPS recommends that unless benefits outweigh costs, the Secretary of State should “not grant development consent for any development that would result in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats including ancient woodland”.

And the National Park policy states: “The Secretary of State should refuse development consent in these areas except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated that it is in the public interest.”

Highways England have promised: “We will take NNNPS into account in determining the option to take forward, and in further designing the scheme.”