Shropshire Star

Call for probe into controversial Shrewsbury relief road as campaigners slate 'maladministration'

Campaigners have called for a probe into the controversial Shrewsbury North West Relief Road scheme, accusing a council of "maladministration".

How the North West Relief Road could look

Better Shrewsbury Transport has written a 28-page letter to Shropshire Council, asking for the authority's monitoring officer to launch an immediate investigation.

The letter details the project’s spiralling costs and long delays, and calls for the officer to issue a ‘Section 5 Statement’ regarding the council’s decisions on the road project. It comes as Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski says he expects it to go to planning next month.

Mike Streetly, from Better Shrewsbury Transport, said: "Shropshire’s finances are now in a 'precarious state' and the council is failing residents by blindly pursuing this project without proper scrutiny over the spiralling costs. This is why we’re calling on the council’s monitoring officer to step up and do his job. We need an immediate Section 5 investigation in order to protect Shropshire taxpayers."

It comes after the Environment Agency said if Shropshire Council proceeds with the road, it will also have to guarantee the drinking water supply borehole at Shelton Rough, west of Shrewsbury, as well as provide a ring-fenced fund to pay for mitigation measures for the life of the road. Separately, the council will also need to provide compensation to take 50ha of prime agricultural land out of production around the Hencott Pool SSSI to mitigate the negative air quality impacts of the road.

Mr Streetly added: "When the MP for Shrewsbury secured a £54m grant for the NWRR in 2019, the project was costed at £87m. Its cost has now likely more than doubled due to construction sector inflation: in the latest report for the council meeting on September 21, the additional cost of the road is now estimated at £95m with the council acknowledging that additional borrowing would be the only way to find that money.

"Borrowing nearly £100m will mean the council needing to make £7-8m of additional cuts to its revenue budget every year to cover the interest and repayments. What are they proposing to cut to pay for this road?

"There has been no proper scrutiny of these additional costs. With Shropshire Council underwriting all of the overspend on the project, it is residents across the county who are being left to pick up the tab.

"This is no way to run a council, especially not one that is veering towards bankruptcy.

"We understand that the council administration has backed itself into a corner over the road, but grasping the nettle now will be less painful than continuing to let this rudderless project run completely out of control."

Dan Morris, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member for highways, said: “We can confirm receipt of the letter from Mr Streetly on behalf of Better Shrewsbury Transport. The council’s monitoring officer will give this careful consideration and respond in due course."