The move was voted through by Shropshire councillors despite concerns that it could be seen as “pre-determining” the outcome of the planning application.
A meeting of the full council on Thursday saw a motion tabled by Green councillor Julian Dean which sought to establish the parameters of the council’s new local transport plan, LTP4, which is currently being developed.
It was however subject to an amendment from the ruling Conservative group to include recognising the “vital part” the £87 million road will play in shaping future traffic and transport movements around the town and wider county.
Councillor Dean’s motion, which was backed by Labour member Kate Halliday, independent Madge Shineton and the Liberal Democrat group, proposed a commitment to enshrining the latest government guidelines on active travel into the new transport plan.
It further said public health officers should be involved in the development of the plan, and that the document should set out a “pathway to net zero carbon emissions from transport”.
Councillor Dean said the preparation of LTP4 was set against the backdrop of the climate emergency, and must therefore promote a “transport hierarchy” of reducing the need to travel, shifting towards sustainable transport modes and electrifying the remainder.
He said supporting the North West Relief Road was “contradictory” to this.
Councillor Dean added: “This motion is setting a framework which really means that we do have to re-think what we are doing about the North West Relief Road.
“It’s inconsistent with this proposal to suggest that we celebrate the North West Relief Road as if it’s going to bring economic development, which is simply not proven.”
The amendment, put forward by Councillor Nick Bardsley, was to include a resolution that the council “recognise and welcome the vital part played by the construction of the North West Relief Road” in completing the town’s bypass, enhancing economic development, and relieving the town and surrounding villages of their traffic woes.
Councillor Bardsley said: “This motion, un-amended, is a good one. It’s in line with council policy on climate change.
“But there is, in my view, an important omission from this motion, and that is improvements to roads – our trunk road network generally and specifically the North West Relief Road.
“The climate strategy is vitally important to Shropshire of course, but so is the future of Shropshire’s economy.”
Councillor Bardsley said the scheme would stop residential roads in town and surrounding villages from being used as rat-runs, as well as taking traffic out of the town centre and cutting air pollution.
But other members questioned whether it was appropriate for the council to support the principle of the road before the planning application was decided.
Councillor Andy Boddington said: “What concerns me about this amendment is that it’s moving us towards pre-determining the planning application.”
Council speaker Vince Hunt, chairing the meeting, said advice had been sought from the monitoring officer who had advised that the amendment would not amount to pre-determination as councillors had not yet seen the plans.
Councillor Roger Evans, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group, said: “Whether we have seen the application or not, members today are saying they will support this regardless. That is pre-determination in my book.”
The amendment was carried with 36 votes for and 15 against, with three abstentions, and members then voted to support the motion.
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Dean said: “The Conservative amendment was a huge contradiction to the spirit of the motion and made it all but irrelevant.
“Sustainable transport is a 21st century solution to the issues of transport and the climate emergency.
“In contrast, the North West Road is a 30-years-out-of-date proposal and has no business being part of the same discussion.
“Conservatives’ heads may tell them that sustainable transport is the only way for us to meet our climate goals, but their hearts remain committed to tarmac.”