STANDING UP FOR THE COUNTRYSIDE

Herefordshire Council's approved Core Strategy (2015) sets the scene for a number of major road developments and potentially the A49 trunk road through the county.  Each of these is reviewed in turn in the four sections below.

Leominster southern by pass

The Council wishes to build a new road round Leominster from the B4361 Hereford road to the A44 south of Baron’s Cross.  CPRE Herefordshire believes it takes in far too much land, which will then be vulnerable to further development.  CPRE believes that this proposed route for the road would be an environmentally damaging encroachment on open countryside and is opposing it. It would be possible to mark out a route for the road that does not go far from the existing settlement boundary.

Although Herefordshire Council's Local Transport Plan 2016 - 2031 Strategy does mention a Leominster Southern Link Road running from Bargates to the A49 there had been little visible evidence of progress on this potentially damaging scheme by the Spring of 2019.  Herefordshire Council are focussing on Hereford City at the expense of market towns like Leominster.

Air pollution largely caused by vehicles remains a local concern at Bargates.  However, planning approvals over the past four years have significantly increased the number of houses to be built locally which will generate even more traffic in the air quality management area (AQMA).  CPRE's own research (The Impact of Road Projects) has shown time and time again that building car-dependent housing estates is not sustainable development.

 

Hereford Relief Road 

By 2019 Herefordshire Council had finally given up pretending that the relief road proposed in the 2015 Core Strategy was anything other than a western bypass for Hereford linking the A49 at the Callow south of the city to the A49 at Holmer north of the city.  For the build-up to this position please visit our page The proposed Hereford Bypass - events during 2018.  However despite more information and a number of consultations since 2015 we still do not believe that the case for this road bears scrutiny environmentally, economically or socially. we will continue to draw attention to the following

We still consider that the case for the Hereford relief road or Bypass as it is increasingly being labelled has not yet been established.  In particular we draw attention to the following:

  1. The western route corridor will cause significant environmental damage to the unspoilt Wye Valley at Breinton - an area that has exactly the same statutory protections as the Lugg Meadows to the east of the city.
  2. In combination with increased housing in and around Hereford and the traffic this will generate, the relief road will not, according to the Council's own studies, reduce congestion significantly on the city's roads especially as there are facilities like the hospital, station colleges and major school to the east and road junctions there are already over capacity.
  3. Improvements to public transport - desirable in their own right - should be attempted first.  The active travel measures proposed in the South Wye Transportation Package are largely possible without a bypass.
  4. The costs of the road have not been updated recently but with a second bridge over the River Severn on the Worcester bypass costed provisionally at £80m how much will a longer and more complex bridge over the River Wye cost?  Remember that the recently completed City Link Road in Hereford City from Edgar Street to the station cost £34m to build and is less than a mile in length.

 

Southern Link Road (SLR)

Update May 2019

Herefordshire Council gave themselves planning permission to build this road in July 2016.  In October 2018 there was a limited Public Inquiry only into: 

  • the compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) necessary to purchase any land needed for the proposed road when the Council could not agree a price with the owner, and
  • the side road orders necessary to close off any stretches of road that had been replaced by the SLR.

 The Inspectors report in March 2019 concludes that there were no legal reasons why the Department for Transport (DfT) should not confirm the necessary orders.     

 At the time of writing, Herefordshire Council is proceeding to appoint a contractor to build the road, despite the fact that the business case for this road has still not been made public nor has funding finally been confirmed.     

 Please note also that there has never been a Public Inquiry into this scheme to test if the benefits that are claimed for it in the future after it has been completed, are real and truly do outweigh the very real adverse effects that are apparent right now. 

Our response regarding the SLR after the approval of the Core Strategy in 2015 can be read here.

 

The Future of the A49 through Herefordshire

In addition beyond Herefordshire Council’s own plans contained in the 2015 Core Strategy, Highways England produced a new Route Strategy for the Midlands to Wales and Gloucestershire in March 2017. This includes the A49 from Wilton, near Ross on Wye, in the south of the county to Brimfield in the north where the road crosses into Shropshire.

The route strategy is part of Highways England’s preparations for their second Road Investment Strategy (see below) through which it will secure Government funding for roads over the period 2020-2025.  The Department for Transport were consulting on Highways England’s proposals for the Road Investment Strategy during January 2018.  CPRE Herefordshire is concerned that this will lead to major road building along the A49 in the coming decade.

CPRE is not against road building where this is well planned, cost-effective and provides long term solutions to major weaknesses in the English infrastructure.  However, as the 2017 National CPRE report ‘The impact of Road Projects in England’ shows, road schemes generate more traffic, rarely bring the promised benefits to the local economy and often have adverse environmental impacts.

Locally we simply do not believe that the A49 through Herefordshire and Shropshire can ever be considered as a serious alternative ‘route to the north’ to the current motorways without huge expenditure and major damage to the wonderful environment and landscape of these rural counties.  The support for massive road improvement schemes by bodies such as Herefordshire Council and the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership is barely credible and this route simply cannot be regarded as a high priority given other national transport requirements.  Major works along the A49 are not a good use of increasingly scarce national resources and would not represent value for money.

CPRE Herefordshire has written to Highways England (HCPRE response to RIS2) suggesting that there are other, more cost-effective solutions to improve traffic circulation and road safety for all users within Hereford city if only Herefordshire Council would drop its fixation with grandiose new road schemes.

Countywide there is a good case for improving the Newport to Manchester rail line parallel to the A49, particularly to take volumes of freight off the roads.  Letters have also been sent to both local MP’s, the National Audit office, the Minister for Transport and the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.   All the town and parish councils along the A49 have also been contacted.

In 2018 Highways England produced their Road Investment Strategy for the period 2020 - 2025 (RIS2).  In effect this is their bid to the Department for Transport (DfT) for future funding that could amount to £25bn over five years, since the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the proceeds of road tax would be available for new or improved roads.

CPRE Herefordshire commented on the RIS2 proposals.  We were particularly concerned about the secrecy surrounding the detailed development and final choices of new roads that will be funded, where local communities are not involved and always amongst the last to hear.

In October 2018 the DfT responded with their own draft RIS2.  Disappointingly they did not seem to have taken very much notice of CPRE's comments. We wrote to Jesse Norman, MP (see letter here) for Hereford and the then Roads Minister, to repeat our concerns.