Better Shrewsbury Transport (BeST) have reacted with disappointment at Shropshire Chamber of Commerce’s backing for the £81 million road. A recent survey by the chamber found that more than three quarters of its members support plans for the scheme, despite question marks over its costs and benefits.
Mike Streetly, a spokesperson for BeST, said: “We’re disappointed that the Shropshire Chamber of Commerce can’t see what a terrible deal the road is for the county. The figures in the outline business case released by Shropshire Council simply don’t add up, not least because they are based on 2010 prices. It means that the final bill for the road, after eleven years of post-pandemic price rises and rampaging inflation in construction costs, is likely to be far higher than the estimate.”
BeST believe the road could actually cost up to £120m, based on a comparison with the newly completed Congleton Link Road in Cheshire. That project cost £90m, despite being shorter than the proposed Shrewsbury road and not including a viaduct.
Mr Streetly added: “Any serious business person knows that you can’t rely on costings that are over a decade out of date, especially not in the construction sector. We have real concerns that Shropshire Council, already on the verge of bankruptcy due to the controversial shopping centres purchase, is making a catastrophic financial decision. If the road proves to be £40m more expensive than estimated, will the Shropshire Chamber of Commerce still think it is a sound investment? And if it does go over budget, will the chamber’s members be happy to see it funded by increased business rates?”
Campaigners have also raised questions over claims by Councillor Dean Carroll, portfolio holder for physical infrastructure, that the economic benefit of the road to the county will be £327m during a radio debate.
Mr Streetly said: “Councillor Carroll is repeating the flawed analysis in the business case for the road. He has only mentioned the benefits and not the costs. If you look behind the headline figures you can see that they are built on smoke and mirrors. Half of the benefits are not for business or commuters but rather for a category labelled ‘other’ – this means people driving round town for shopping and school drop offs et cetera. These are exactly the kind of journeys that we expect to see reduce as we move towards the Government’s target of half of all urban journeys being walked or cycled.
"The council is supposed to be providing an updated business case in the autumn which needs to include updated costs and assessed levels of traffic growth.
"Until the council looks properly at the numbers we remain convinced that building this road runs a real risk of bankrupting the county without solving any of our traffic issues. We do not think that this is a good deal for residents, businesses or the county of Shropshire.”