Anti-relief road campaigners urge council to consult public on priorities

Campaigners battling plans for Shrewsbury's North West Relief Road say the public should be given a fresh say on major Shropshire Council projects.

Protests have taken place against plans for the road
Protests have taken place against plans for the road

Better Transport Shrewsbury, which is firmly opposed to the council's plan for the North West Relief Road (NWRR), said the authority should consult on cuts to its budget for capital projects.

The council had planned to spend around £400 million on capital projects from 2022/23 to 2026/27 – but has revised that down to £280m of 'priorities' because of concerns about the cost of borrowing required to finance the plans.

The move has seen high profile projects like a revamp of Shrewsbury's swimming facilities put off, with the council going back to the drawing board on the plans due to rising costs.

Mike Streetly, from Better Transport Shrewsbury, said that in light of the reduced budget the council should ask the public for their priorities – and particularly their views on the £81m North West Relief Road.

An artist's impression of how Shrewsbury's North West Relief Road may look.

The council is firmly committed to the relief road project, which has been a cornerstone of its plans in recent years – although it has now been opposed by a number of town and parish councils, including Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Oswestry, and Bridgnorth.

Only last week Shrewsbury Town Council reiterated its stance by writing to the government to ask for the project to be shelved.

The council's capital strategy does include £28m towards the relief road – £8.2 from section 106 developer contributions as part of planning permission, and £19m from capital receipts, where land or buildings are sold. The project is also being funded by £54m from the Government.

Mr Streetly said: "Shropshire Council is in so much financial trouble it has just slashed £100m from its capital budget, cancelling many important schemes across the county.

"Yet, the council is still pressing ahead with the £81m North West Relief Road.

He added: "Why should Shropshire residents face cuts to local projects to fund this expensive, out-dated scheme?"

Mr Streetly said campaigners wanted to see the council quiz the public on their backing for the project.

He said: "Huge budget cuts like this are a sign that the council is in real financial trouble.

The North West Relief Road is predicted to cost £20 to £50m more than the £81m estimated, which will plunge Shropshire into even more financial chaos. Better Shrewsbury Transport is calling on the council to let the public decide on spending priorities.

"We’ve already seen Ludlow, Oswestry, Bridgnorth, and Shrewsbury Town Councils vote against building the NWRR.

"The people of Shropshire need to be given a voice on how their money is being spent.

"We believe that residents in towns outside Shrewsbury would rather see money invested locally in their libraries, leisure facilities and flood defences.

"It is unfair to pour tens of millions of Shropshire money into four miles of road in Shrewsbury that the town council doesn’t even want. We say: let the public decide."

Responding to claims about the potential for increasing costs of the NWRR a spokeswoman for Shropshire Council said: "The full forecast cost of the delivery of the NWRR (including Oxon Link Road), will subject to planning approval, be laid out in the paper to councillors around December 2022 that will agree the submission of the Full Business case to DfT.

“This will also then describe the value of, and approach, through which our own match funding requirement will be delivered. We are continuing to work through a commercial review of the scheme looking at the detailed design and delivery programme, in order to establish a robust build price. We are undertaking this in collaboration with a number of key contractors and through supply chain engagement.”

Previously the authority has said the road is the best option for getting traffic out of Shrewsbury town centre and boosting the economy in the town and surrounding villages.

Speaking last week, council leader Lezley Picton said: "The Shrewsbury NWRR remains a key priority for us as a council and is currently being considered as part of the planning process.

“The NWRR has successfully passed through the Outline Business Case stage, has received an offer of DfT funding, and has formally entered the DfT Large Local Majors delivery programme. We plan to submit a full business case to DfT by the end of 2022, subject to planning approval.

“The case for the road continues to support and deliver the stated aims within the original objectives and the more recent, wider objectives of Government transport investment.

“These include reducing congestion, supporting housing delivery and delivering value for money.

“It’s because of this that we will continue to progress with the scheme, and we remain confident that the funding is in place to deliver it.”

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