Still no fresh estimate for Shrewsbury North West Relief Road amid fears costs will spiral

Work is still ongoing to establish a new estimated cost for the Shrewsbury North West Relief Road, amid concerns it could spiral.

The proposed North West Relief Road
The proposed North West Relief Road

Council officials said the predicted cost of the road had been slashed by £7 million to £81 million just over a year ago.

But the authority said in May this year that, given the rising costs in the economy and in particular, the construction industry, the scheme's cost would "inevitably" be higher than the road's original budget.

Councillor Rosemary Dartnall, the Labour representative for Bayston Hill, Column and Sutton, asked the council's cabinet infrastructure lead Dean Carroll for an updated cost at the latest full council meeting.

She asked: "Has Balfour Beatty now completed the audit of Shropshire Council’s project costing and confirmed, or otherwise, the most recently quoted total project price of £81m?

Mr Carroll said: "The engagement with Balfour Beatty on the North West Relief Road has not concluded and there are a number of areas requiring further clarification. The work to update the project cost estimate is ongoing.

She also asked how much had been spent on ground investigations.

"Approximately £4m has been spent on ground investigations and analysis along the length of the North West Relief Road with final investigations ongoing. Many of the costs associated with the ground investigation are not location specific and therefore an accurate cost for investigations associated specifically with the viaduct is not available. The data from ground investigations to date support the original project assumptions and construction approach.

"The design and construction of the sub-structure and superstructure is challenging but achievable. This forms the basis of the environmental assessment included within the live planning application. Supplementary ground investigation data will be made available in due course."

Councillor Dartnall also asked: "Does the administration remain convinced that this is a viable and worthy project, despite sound arguments that show it to be outdated, unlikely to relieve congestion, counter to net zero targets and poor value for taxpayers’ money?"

Mr Carroll said: "I do not agree with the statements made in the question following the phrase ‘sound arguments’, the administration’s position on the NWRR has not changed"

Shropshire Council believes the road would bring significant economic benefits to the county and would help ease traffic problems in Shrewsbury town centre.

Mr Carroll told the meeting that it was previously estimated in 2017 that the road would bring in £266m a year to the county. He said that, due to inflation, the authority anticipates that number would have increased.

He also said it was hoped a planning application would be considered before Christmas.

The project has received criticism over spiralling costs and environmental issues. Protests have been held, and more than 4,400 people objected to a previous planning application.

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