Shrewsbury North West Relief Road plans move ahead as protesters gather - with video and pictures
Shrewsbury's planned North-West Relief Road will be combined with the Oxon Relief Road to form a single planning application for Shrewsbury, after councillors voted in favour of amalgamating the projects.
One opposition member criticised the £71 million plan, calling it a “40-year-old out-of-date solution” and a burden on Shropshire Council. Another said the report before them didn’t estimate the carbon impact of the new road.
But Ruyton and Baschurch councillor Nicholas Bardsley said villages in his ward and others were being used as a “rat run” by heavy vehicles unsuitable for rural roads, and the new road, when built, will divert them.
New images of what relief road could look like have been released ahead of the final phase of public consultation.
Protesters against the scheme gathered outside Shirehall during the meeting.
Shropshire Council hopes to submit a planning application for the scheme, which now includes the previously separate Oxon Link Road, in May
The planned route will connect the A5 at the Welshpool Road roundabout in the west to the Ellesmere Road roundabout in the north, with new bridges over the River Severn and the Shrewsbury to Chester railway line.
The six-week consultation opens on Monday and ends on April 13 – and includes exhibitions at four venues across Shrewsbury to give residents, businesses and road users the opportunity to have their say.
Steve Davenport, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for highways and transport said: “Since we last consulted the public on the proposals for what was previously two schemes, we have been working on the design to incorporate that feedback wherever possible, and also to build in environmental protections, reflecting the studies we have been undertaking over the last three years.
“The result is a combined scheme, which is going to really improve life for communities and road users alike, from Shrewsbury and further afield, improving congestion, air quality and journey times, into and around Shrewsbury.
“We’re looking forward to showing how the North West Relief Road has come along. I encourage people to come to one of the exhibitions and let our team know what they think.”
The exhibitions will provide the opportunity to find out more about the route, access points, environmental impact assessment and mitigations, how the road will look, and provision for cycling, pedestrians and horse riders.
Exhibitions will be held between March 10 and 16, full details are available on the council website.
The plans to merge to two projects was discussed by Shropshire Council members at Shirehall on Thursday.
A report says it would give a better value for money, improve pedestrian and cyclist safety by including new bridges, promote Shrewsbury as a better place for investment, and reduce real-term costs.
Councillor Nick Bardsley said: "I am unashamedly in support of the relief road because I represent an area that suffers from rat run traffic.
"It's a problem in Ruyton-XI-Towns, Baschurch and Walford, and outside my area in places like Montford Bridge. I don't blame the drivers - they have to get from the north to Shrewsbury.
"I also understand the concerns from those who want to look into the environment aspect but please realise that people in North Shropshire are already suffering and they need this scheme."
A majority of councillors voted in favour, so the proposal was approved, but concerns were raised once more about the scheme overall.
Councillor Julian Dean, who represents the Green Party, said: "This is the sort of scheme that threatens to take us in the wrong direction. The North West Relief Road is a 20th century solution for a 21st century problem. I think we need to ditch it all together."
His comments echoed the views of campaigners who staged a protest outside Shirehall ahead of the meeting.
Members of XR Shrewsbury, Friends of the Earth, Better Shrewsbury Transport (BeST), Global Justice Now asked councillors to reject the scheme.
Jo Blackman, an XR member, said: "I'm shocked by the council's claim that the road would reduce emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The construction alone would generate huge amounts of CO2 at a time when the United Nations has said we need to reduce emissions by at least 7.5 per cent this year and every year until 2030 to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.
"However we're already experiencing climate crises right here with the devastating flooding and we're witnessing it elsewhere in the world with the unprecedented bushfires in Australia and the Amazon rainforest, droughts in India, heatwaves in Europe last year and Antarctica recently reaching a record high temperature."
Shrewsbury College student, Callum Fone, added: "Unfortunately my college has closed due to the severe flooding. Extreme weather like this will only worsen if we fail to act on climate change.
"Building this new road is a step in the wrong direction and fails to safeguard my future. I am scared about the impact of projects like this - scared for both my future and that of generations to come."
The exact costs of merging the projects will be revealed at a later date.
Shropshire Council hopes construction will start in spring 2022 with a view to opening in spring 2023.
Report by Keri Trigg and Aimee Jones