Shropshire Star

Campaigners write to Michael Gove over 'catastrophic' Shrewsbury relief road

Campaigners against the controversial Shrewsbury North West Relief Road have written to Michael Gove calling for a public inquiry.

Michael Gove

Better Shrewsbury Transport have penned a letter to the Secretary of State for levelling up, housing and communities, insisting the road carries a "catastrophic" risk.

It comes after planning permission was granted for the road at a lengthy and heated Shropshire Council northern planning committee meeting on October 31.

Mike Streetly, spokesman for the group and a retired hydrogeologist of 30 years, said: "Better Shrewsbury Transport has campaigned against this devastating and disastrous road for many years. We hoped that sanity would prevail at the planning committee meeting.

"Instead, we saw a partisan vote along party lines and a total rejection of the evidence that this road risks the security of the drinking water borehole that supplies 100,000 people in Shrewsbury and western Shropshire.

"We are flabbergasted that the planning application could have been nodded through in its current state and with a whopping 36 planning conditions attached. We are calling on the Secretary of State to launch a public inquiry to ensure that UK taxpayers’ money isn’t being spent on a scheme that could have catastrophic risk attached to it."

The four-mile road, which would stretch from Churncote island to Battlefield, is the first UK road project to receive planning approval that is being funded by cash diverted from HS2.

Huge numbers of objections were made, but Shropshire Council bosses believe the road will bring benefits to the county.

Councillor Dan Morris, the authority's cabinet member for highways, said: “Approval at planning committee last month, albeit subject to agreement of the Section 106 and conditions, marked a key next step forward for the Shrewsbury North West Relief Road (NWRR) which began around 30 years ago.

“While I know that the road divides opinions, I’m confident that it will make a huge difference to people within Shrewsbury town centre, making it a much more attractive place for residents, businesses and visitors.

“I’d like to stress what I believe are the very real benefits of the NWRR and the planning decision can now unlock the following:

* Free up road space and take traffic out of Shrewsbury town centre making this a much more attractive place for residents, businesses and visitors. It will also allow more measures to encourage people out of their cars and to walk or cycle more.

* Improve safety  – many Shropshire villages are currently blighted by traffic rat runs trying to by-pass the long loop around Shrewsbury created by the incomplete ring road, with HGVs trying to avoid the A5 thundering through villages such as Ruyton XI Towns, Baschurch, Forton Heath and Montford Bridge.

*By reducing traffic in Shrewsbury town centre it will also help improve air quality. Other environmental benefits will be reduced journey times, fewer jams on the A5 around Shrewsbury alongside the creation of a new network of cycle routes and footpaths.

*It will provide a huge boost for Shropshire economy, making Shropshire businesses more accessible. It is key piece of national and regional transport infrastructure, completes a ring around Shrewsbury that’s been unfinished for 30 years, while also supporting a key international road link with Ireland.

*It is estimated that 85% of aggregates used in schemes such as this come from Shropshire. Once construction begins, it means that not only will we use local materials, we will also use local people to build it, creating employment and investing in people skills.

He added: “We have and continue to work closely with the Environment Agency and Severn Trent Water, and subject to a number of conditions being met, neither have any objections to the scheme.

“The Environment Agency has stated that any risk to the drinking water for the town would be minimal and we will be taking extraordinary steps to avoid this minimal risk.

“The number of conditions simply reflects the significance and complexity of such a scheme and the planning committee took their decision after very careful deliberation of the facts presented to them.”