1,500 sign petition against highway depot closure plans and force council debate

A council will have to debate plans to close two highways depots after more than 1,500 signed a petition against the plan.

Shropshire Councillor Julia Buckley and Bridgnorth Town Councillor Rachel Connolly are behind the petition
Shropshire Councillor Julia Buckley and Bridgnorth Town Councillor Rachel Connolly are behind the petition

Shropshire Councillor for Bridgnorth West and Tasley, Julia Buckley, said the backing for the petition showed the strength of feeling over Shropshire Council's plan.

Under the proposals, the depots at Bridgnorth and Hodnet would close, with operations continuing at three main depots in Whittington, Shrewsbury and Craven Arms.

With the 1,000 signature mark passed the council will now have to debate the issue at its next meeting on September 23.

Councillor Buckley said she hoped they can force a change in approach from the council.

She said: "We are overwhelmed by the public response – more than 1,500 residents from Prees to Brown Clee have signed the petition to express their concerns about impact on rural highways repairs if these closures go ahead. By closing all the Eastern depots the nearest site with materials, equipment and vehicles will either be Shrewsbury or Craven Arms.

"This is a very long journey to Claverley, Highley, or Market Drayton – logistically there is absolutely no common sense in centralising road repairs in one of the largest, most rurally dispersed counties in the country. The vehicles will have to travel further (costing more money and burning more carbon) so everything will take longer – or worse – we may just be forgotten out here in the rural east. And yet we pay the same Council Tax as residents lucky enough to live in central Shrewsbury where the highways staff and equipment will transfer to."

The council has previously defended the proposal, arguing it will mean no change to the service residents receive.

Head of highways and deputy leader of Shropshire Council, Steve Charmley, said: "While the council has been investigating with our contractor Kier whether there is still a need to maintain five depots with current delivery models, there are many good and sensible reasons why we have had to fast-track temporarily moving operations from Bridgnorth and Hodnet.

"It’s important that we explain these, to reassure those residents and councillors that have raised concerns about these proposals and to reinforce that this is not a cut in services for those areas. Service levels will remain at the very least the same as the last year but with an expectation that there will be improvements.

"Having five depots in an area the size of Shropshire is something that may have been needed in years gone by, but this is no longer the case. The way that we work and the way we treat our roads has changed. There is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach to highways maintenance."

He added: “A recent review of all five highways depots found that Bridgnorth and Hodnet are in a poor state of repair, and there are permit compliance concerns with the potential for the depots to be shut down with immediate effect by regulators if these issues aren’t addressed. However, to bring things up to standard would cost around £400,000, as Hodnet depot would require a complete rebuild and Bridgnorth would require the demolition of outbuildings and rebuilding of new facilities. This is money that could be far better spent on improving our roads."

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News