Congratulations to local campaigners in Hereford and Ipswich as two road schemes look increasingly unlikely to go ahead. The South Wye Transport Package, which included funding for the Southern Link Road and the Hereford Western Bypass has just had £27 million of funding removed by Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) so the Herefordshire countryside seems safe for a little while longer. Meanwhile the fields surrounding Ipswich remain peaceful as three local authorities pulled their support for the Ipswich Northern Bypass.
Here for Hereford and Wye Ruin It? have both tirelessly campaigned against the Southern Link Road and Western Bypass which would have trashed floodplains to the west of the town and led to more car-dependent housing, increased traffic and carbon emissions. They argue that Herefordshire County Council should prioritise quicker, cheaper, sustainable transport measures instead.
Meanwhile, brilliant campaigning by Stop! in Ipswich saw three local authorities, Babergh, Mid Suffolk and East Suffolk district councils, reverse their previous support for the bypass after local consultations showed around 70% of local people opposed the plans. The road would have destroyed the beautiful countryside, wildlife habitat and tranquillity around Ipswich which is much valued by local people.
These two victories show that dogged campaigning by local, dedicated campaigners often pays off. It may take years, but if you engage at a political level it is possible to overturn road schemes that are presented as ‘inevitable’.
The Stop! campaign in Ipswich successfully convinced local MPs to support their cause, and their excellent website made it easy for local people to get their voices heard by those in authority. They made the environmental impacts very clear, and showed how the road was linked to the unpopular housing plans for the area.
The backlash against damaging development and loss of countryside seen at the last local elections, saw independent councillors take control of Herefordshire County Council. They are now reviewing the road plans and the delay has prompted the LEP to remove its funding, making the road far less likely. This offers a real opportunity to do something better in Hereford, but it didn’t just happen by chance as Nichola Geeson, from Here for Hereford explains:
“In the local elections in May 2019, the ruling Conservative group lost control of the council because of its support for two damaging new roads around Hereford. This was achieved by massive cooperation and compromises between parties opposing these roads so as not to split the opposition vote. This was a great success!
“But it takes some time and effort to turn the “supertanker” plans already in place. Therefore the “Review” of previous transport plans will not be completed until July 2020, and a final decision on whether or not to build the two roads that make a “bypass” for Hereford is likely to be put to full Council in the autumn.”
Amy Waspe of the Stop! Ipswich Bypass campaign had this advice for other local transport campaigners:
“Our campaign was led with honesty, good communication and most of all determination. We recruited volunteers and split into sub-teams. This way our sub-teams could spend the time on areas they had particular strengths, skills or interests in. Strong advertising and campaign branding with banners, T-shirts, a website, social media platforms, TV, radio and local papers was also fundamental.
“Regular meetings with volunteers, our MP, the public, local Parish Councils and update emails played a huge part in getting people on board. Most key was probably thorough research which was backed up with facts and figures and helped people to understand every part in the process. This resulted in lots of people signing our petition.”
If you’re opposing a destructive local development we hope you take some inspiration from these two campaign victories and if you have local elections in May then make sure you get involved and make the most of the opportunity.
Transport Action Network was formed to support you so please get in touch if you need help. For more campaigning tips take a look at Campaign for Better Transport’s Road Campaigner’s Guide. For useful information to help build the case against new roads and for sustainable alternatives look at our Briefings page.