STANDING UP FOR THE COUNTRYSIDE

Herefordshire Councils approved Core Strategy sets the scene for a number of major road developments:

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.

Hereford Relief Road 

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 to 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)

Having completed the largely unused Rotherwas Access Road some years ago, the SLR is just the next section in the whole Hereford Relief Road scheme. Herefordshire Council’s plan is to have the city almost completely ringed with roads from A49 to A49.

The approved route linking the Ross and Abergavenny roads threatens large swathes of Herefordshire’s green fields and will impact our heritage of historic buildings, from Haywood to Grafton. It also runs through the ancient woodland of Grafton Wood which is supposed to be protected under planning law. No mitigation measures can replace this.

There is still no business case to demonstrate that the benefits outweigh the costs and without this the Department for Transport is unlikely to release any further funds

More generally this continued threatened destruction of Herefordshire countryside would see alarming amounts of Herefordshire green fields being lost – many of these fields are Grade 1 agricultural land, which could be used for growing food. Herefordshire has amongst the highest proportion of Grade 1 & 2 land (the best for growing food) in the country.

HCPRE has long maintained that the case for this road complex has not been proven and will not bring the economic benefits its supporters suggest. Another concern is that, in order to pay for these roads, housing applications will follow for the 'infill' land. This will obviously lead to more traffic on these roads than is currently planned. CPRE’s national report ‘The impact of road projects in England’ produced in 2017 demonstrates conclusively how major new roads induce more traffic.

The Future of the A49 through Herefordshire

Beyond Herefordshire Council’s own plans, 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 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 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.