Oswestry Town Council re-iterates opposition to 'outdated' North West Relief Road plan

Oswestry Town council has again voiced its opposition to plans for Shrewsbury's controversial North West Relief Road, which it said would be "damaging" to current and future county residents.

An artist's impression of how the North West Relief Road's viaduct would look
An artist's impression of how the North West Relief Road's viaduct would look

The Shropshire Council project, which has been budgeted to cost around £80m, would effectively complete the ring road around Shrewsbury.

But the project has been dogged by opposition from campaigners, environmental groups, and town councils, including those in Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Bridgnorth and Ludlow.

Now Oswestry Town Council has again written to Shropshire Council's leader Councillor Lezley Picton, to reiterate its concerns over the plans.

The proposals are yet to go before Shropshire Council's planning committee, having originally been expected for consideration at the end of last year.

The authority has been delayed in putting the application before the committee after comments from the Environment Agency, which said it needed more answers over queries about the project.

In its latest letter, Oswestry Town Council said it is concerned that the price for the project could rise significantly above the £81m predicted.

The Government is providing £54m towards the project, with Shropshire Council paying the rest – and any potential overspend.

The letter from the town council states: "Oswestry Town Council does not accept that the case for the North West Relief Road (NWRR) has been made, and believes that in fact the construction will be damaging to the residents of Shropshire both current and future."

One of the major concerns outlined by the town council is the potential cost of the project.

It states: "The council has committed to spending money on this project without knowing the final cost, and therefore without clarification of the inevitable overspend for which Shropshire Council will be fully responsible.

"Comparisons to recently costed new roads around England imply a final cost in the region of £120 – £130 million (or more) with £54.4 million secured from Government funding, the shortfall could be as great as £75.6 million."

It adds: "Shropshire Council has yet to publish the Full Business Case for the NWRR. The latest estimate for this to happen is December 2022.

"The current planning application relies on an out-of-date Outline Business Case from 2017 costing £80 million.

"Since 2017 construction costs have repeatedly escalated and are still rising.

"A full business case, submitted last year, for an almost identical bypass in Norwich has put the cost of that scheme at £200 million."

The town council also calls for a major shift in approach to reducing traffic issues – and resulting pollution.

Its letter states: "We consider that building a new ring road segment is an outdated, financially irresponsible response to transport problems.

"The overriding transport need for Shropshire is to reduce motor traffic volume and this can only be achieved via a modal shift: reducing cars on the roads by improving public transport and creating safe walking and cycling routes, all of which will contribute to a healthier, cleaner and more pleasant environment for all residents.

"We will only achieve a change in car use habits by providing a quality integrated public transport system and active travel solutions that are both a more convenient and safer prospect for people than getting in the car. Shropshire Council must take the lead in showing commitment to bringing about this modal shift."

The issue of spending in the county is also part of the submission, with the town council calling for money to be spread around Shropshire.

It states: "Spending such huge sums in Shrewsbury is to the detriment of much needed spending in the rest of the county.

"Shropshire Council has already had to cut back on its capital programme due to rising costs, building this unnecessary road can only make matters worse and this will impact negatively on residents across the county."

Shropshire Council has continually said it stands by the project, which it claims will benefit both Shrewsbury and the wider county.

Councillor Picton said: "The Shrewsbury NWRR remains a key priority for us as a council and is currently being considered as part of the planning process.

“The NWRR has successfully passed through the Outline Business Case stage, has received an offer of DfT funding, and has formally entered the DfT Large Local Majors delivery programme. We plan to submit a full business case to DfT by the end of 2022, subject to planning approval.

“The case for the road continues to support and deliver the stated aims within the original objectives and the more recent, wider objectives of Government transport investment.

“These include reducing congestion, supporting housing delivery and delivering value for money.

“It’s because of this that we will continue to progress with the scheme, and we remain confident that the funding is in place to deliver it.”

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