By Adam Trimingham

MOST people were delighted more than 40 years ago when the Arundel bypass was built.

It took most through traffic out of the lovely little town leaving pedestrians to appreciate its charm without constant disruption by cars. But within a short time, traffic grew so fast that there were often jams on either side of the bypass.

Arundel became the first town in Britain that needed a bypass for the bypass. Motorists heading west have their journey abruptly halted by an unfinished junction at Crossbush and it is obvious where road planners of that era intended the new road to go.

But a lot has happened since then and there has been opposition to every option put forward by Highways England.

Now sleeping giant the South Downs National Park Authority has decided to announce a legal challenge to the current proposal.

The authority says the Highways Agency has not fully considered other possible routes further away from the South Downs.

It has done much good work quietly since it was founded but this is the first time that it has been really bold.

Although the proposed route would skirt most of the South Downs, it would cause much disruption to Binsted Woods, a small but beautiful stretch of woodland. I believe that as traffic expands to meet the space available, the current proposal would also lengthen delays at two other bottlenecks on the A27 at Chichester and Worthing.

Plans for a bypass at Worthing have been around almost as long as those for Arundel and are even more difficult to solve.

Many environmentalists can see that something has to be done to end congestion and dangerous conditions on the A27, which is a single carriageway road through most of the town.

Sooner rather than later, the National Park Authority will have to be really radical about the A27 through Worthing and its neighbour Lancing.

There may have to be a bypass but to avoid beauty spots such as Cissbury and Lancing Rings, it will have to be tunnelled. Drivers could then pay a toll to use the tunnel or still go free on the existing but slower road.

Another major change affecting both the A27 and A259 is the relentless rise in house building and traffic. A good example is the proposal by developers for several hundred homes on land at Peacehaven.

This will have the effect of increasing traffic on the A259 which is already congested for long periods each day.

MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle says no building should be started until the A259 has been improved. At the same time, East Sussex County Council is looking at giving the new residents bus passes and cycle vouchers to try and reduce car use.

This part of Peacehaven is one of the few areas of green land available for development close to Brighton and the alternative, too damaging even to consider seriously, would be to build another bypass. There are minor improvements that could be made such as building a mini flyover at Rottingdean crossroads but this would attract enormous opposition from villagers.

Over at Lancing, there are ambitious plans for an Ikea store with housing attached but I cannot see how this could be built without increased capacity on the roads.

Rail links are rightly proposed by environmentalists as a solution to many of the problems on the A27 and A259 but trains from Brighton to Southampton and Portsmouth are irritatingly slow and often disrupted. Buses can play their part.

It is good to see that both Brighton and Hove Buses with the numbers 12 and 13X routes, and Stagecoach with its 700 Coastliner buses have both invested millions of pounds in more frequent services and better buses.

The South Downs National Park covers an area far more congested and populated than any of the other national parks. As more new national parks are being considered, the South Downs Authority should lead the way in protecting the precious land against incursions whether they be nibbles or giant bites.

Many people may not even notice Binsted Woods by the A27 because they are small and partly fragmented. But in flexing its muscles against Highways England, the authority is starting with the first of what could be a long series of road battles.

Road planners have been used to getting their own way nearly all the time in Sussex. Highways England would do well to grasp the olive branch of sensible discussions offered by the Parks Authority. Otherwise it risks being badly battered by the awakening giant.