Guest blog by Emma Bullard of Better Shrewsbury Transport (BeST)
Compared to bigger schemes – Silvertown Tunnel, the Wensum Link, A303 Stonehenge – the North West “Relief” Road proposed for Shrewsbury might not seem like a big deal. It is budgeted at about £100M, is just under 7 km long, and apparently fills a “gap” in Shrewsbury’s bypass. Supporters say it is “long overdue”.
And yet, it’s clear that it will be hugely destructive, unaffordable and will not reduce congestion. It will result in a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions, but the local council is rehearsing arguments that will soon be seen across the country: claiming that the road’s impact will be ‘insignificant’ compared to the UK’s carbon budget.
An alliance of local groups has formed Better Shrewsbury Transport (BeST) to campaign against the road and to press for transport solutions that work for everyone.
This road was proposed over 30 years ago and was already well out of date as a “solution” before the planning application was submitted on 1 March this year. Privately, Shropshire Council’s own transport planners couldn’t see the case for it when it was last considered over a decade ago. They thought it would never pass any test for DfT funding.
Photo: This view will be destroyed by the road and the 500 year old ‘Darwin’ Oak, on the left, felled
The 2011 Local Transport Plan (LTP3) also should have ruled it out, favouring a 5 step hierarchy to deal with traffic management, with demand reduction at the top and “new roads and bypasses” at the bottom. Despite its age, LTP3 is still current but were they to update it, a new LTP would surely reinforce this approach given all that we know now:
- Declarations of a climate emergency nationally and by Shropshire Council in 2019
- Evidence that new roads generate new traffic and do not benefit the local economy
- The ecological and biodiversity crisis, which has led the Shropshire Wildlife Trust to be one of the strongest critics of the scheme
- Evidence of public support for investing in walking, cycling and public transport, nationally and locally.
- New Government vision for cycling and a new national bus strategy
- The council’s adoption of standards which say that all highway schemes must make high-quality provision for cycling.
Our neighbours in Herefordshire have moved with the times. After a proper review of alternatives, Herefordshire found that the same reduction in congestion (not to mention carbon) could be achieved at a quarter of the cost, by investing in walking and cycling measures. Herefordshire have cancelled their road and are also looking to invest in bus improvements.
Unbelievably, Shropshire Council has not assessed other ways of dealing with congestion (and reducing carbon emissions). Despite there being 603 documents in the planning application, there is inadequate evidence to support claims that traffic in the town centre will be reduced.
Other issues which weigh heavily against the road are:
- The road goes directly through the Source Protection Zone for Shrewsbury’s drinking water. Protection of the water supply is an unresolved issue.
- 60mph climbing traffic will be carried on a 27m high viaduct over the unspoilt Severn Valley, destroying its tranquillity.
- The 600m long viaduct will be ugly and intrusive yet the council has not provided adequate visualisations of the impact.
- Shropshire Council’s finances are in deep trouble and yet the council is committed to spending £28.5m on this road, plus any overspend. Some of the money will come from developers’ contributions in other parts of Shropshire, depriving residents of the community services in those areas.
There has traditionally been little public awareness of these threats. Some people think the road has been discussed for so long they don’t take it seriously. The last public engagement over a year ago gave limited information and was cut short by lockdown.
BeST and local groups are coming up with creative ways to help residents understand the full impact of the road. Please support the growing number of local objectors, and put in your objection now, before the deadline of 27 April. You can email your objection to firstname.lastname@example.org using the planning application reference no. 21/00924/EIA. You can find more help and other ways to object on BeST’s website.
Thank you for your support.
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