Shropshire Star

Environment Agency details major outstanding concerns over Shropshire Council's relief road plans

Shropshire Council has been accused of misrepresenting the views of the Environment Agency in a letter outlining a catalogue of concerns over plans for Shrewsbury's North West Relief Road.

The Environment Agency has reiterated its concerns over Shrewsbury's North West Relief Road

The controversial road scheme was approved by Shropshire Council's Northern Planning Committee in October, despite the Environment Agency (EA) saying it was not prepared to support the proposal without more information.

The EA's reticence was based on concerns about the potential for construction work to contaminate the supply of Shrewsbury's drinking water at Shelton, along with a number of other issues.

But the council's planning committee approved the proposal with the caveat that it would address the EA's concerns through 'conditions' agreed with the agency.

The EA has now written to the council formalising its position – with suggestions for conditions.

In a strongly worded letter, it has outlined a number of requirements and concerns about the plans, and the council's approach to its own worries about the proposals.

Campaigners opposed to the North West Relief Road attended the committee meeting where the project was approved by Shropshire Council in October.

Outlining its overall concern it states: "There is a significant risk of impact upon the water supply at this location, based on the route and design the applicant has chosen to pursue."

The issues show there are still significant hurdles to be passed before any actual work on the road could begin.

One of the EA's key concerns was the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) included with the plan, with officials saying that it did not provide enough detail to approve the application.

It said the information was vital to decide on the plan, and should not be set out in 'conditions'.

But it says its own position was misrepresented to the planning committee, with its letter saying: "Unfortunately, your committee report suggested that we were refusing to engage on matters until conditions were to be drafted. This is not the case."

The letter warns of EA concerns that even with monitoring during construction work for the viaduct included in the scheme, Shrewsbury's water supply could already be contaminated by the time any issue is discovered.

It says a condition should be agreed for who pays to restore and provide an alternative supply if this happens.

It states: "We previously outlined to you that – It is also plausible that at the point any potential impacts are observed there may already be short to long term (some years of impact/loss), or potentially irreversible impact, particularly in relation to any water supply abstraction/intake feature.

"Such mitigation options, including corrective action, have not been fully explored within the EIA, but for impacts to public water supplies it could include provision of alternative supplies potentially including alternative mains water supply provision, at someone’s cost.

"The feasibility of any such options would have to be investigated with Severn Trent Water Ltd."

It adds: "We are advising as part of the EIA for the applicant to assess and consider necessary measures and as developer to make a commitment to provide financial reparation options for any foreseen and unforeseen impact arising from the construction and future operation of the proposed application."

The agency also outlines other concerns over missing information.

It states: "We are not satisfied that the potential impact and deterioration risk to the water environment and public water supply has been adequately assessed (see previous letters for detailed explanation).

"As such, we do not consider that the Local Planning Authority (LPA) has demonstrated compliance with Regulation 33 of the Water Environment Regulations 2017 (WFD) and we would question whether you have complied with Regulation 19."

Other issues raised include the need for a drainage plan to prevent any pollutants from potential crashes on the road entering the water network.

It calls for specific signs advising people who to call if there is a spillage, and for lower speed limits through the Shelton section of the road.

The letter also criticises the lack of information on barriers planned for the sides of the viaduct, saying: "We reiterate our view that this is quite a basic commentary and provides no further reassurance on the robustness of the consideration for this critical design feature, linked to the potential pollution issue, mitigation, and remedial options."

The letter puts forward a number of suggestions for 'conditions' which will need to be agreed before any work can start on the road.

Responding to the letter a spokesman for Shropshire Council said: "We, as the local planning authority, will review these comments and give them due consideration as part of the planning process."