Shrewsbury Town Council has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to urge him to shelve the “damaging” Shrewsbury North West Relief Road plan.
The council says the £81 million road is an outdated and financially risky idea, and encouraged Mr Shapps to engage in discussions to “develop good transport solutions” in Shrewsbury and Shropshire.
More than 4,500 objections to the plans for the four-mile road were submitted on the planning application, with pollution, costs and a loss of greenbelt land among major concerns.
However, Shropshire Council claim the road is the best option for getting traffic out of Shrewsbury town centre and boosting the economy in the town and surrounding villages, reports the Shropshire Star.
The letter to Mr Shapps, signed by town clerk Helen Ball, said: “Shrewsbury Town Council has on three separate occasions in the last year expressed, by a clear democratic majority, strong opposition to the NWRR proposed by Shropshire Council, which is to be partially funded by the Department for Transport.
“The town council stalled any commentary about the NWRR until after the Local Council Elections in May last year, and it was clear that there is a groundswell of local opposition to these proposals, with a very strident local appetite for alternative solutions to transport and movement.
“Shrewsbury Town Council does not accept that the case for the NWRR has been made despite senior officers and leaders being equivocal in advocating that construction of the road makes sound economic sense to the town and county as a whole. The town council sees the proposed road as damaging to the town and its residents.”
Reasons for the town council’s stance include climate change concerns, increase in road usage causing even more traffic, impact on nature and the fact a full business case has not yet been published. Other town councils across the county have also objected to the road, said the newspaper report.
The town clerk added: “Shropshire Council has already spent, or committed to spend £15 million, on this project, without knowing the final cost, and therefore without clarification of the inevitable overspend for which Shropshire Council will be fully responsible. Comparison to recently costed new roads around England imply a final cost in the region of £120 – £130 million with £54.4 million secured from government funding, the shortfall could be as great as £75.6 million. We are seeing Shropshire Council putting on hold other major construction projects as costs spiral and their initial aspirations to service debt to bring about these projects are becoming unachievable.
“We consider that building a new ring road segment is an outdated, financially risky response to the transport problems Shrewsbury faces.
“The NWRR is on the table at a time when Shrewsbury public transport is under immediate threat. Bus services have become increasingly sporadic in frequency of service with trips being cancelled with no warning. We are seeing bus providers withdrawing vital services both within the town and also between the town and its hinterland, that were until recently commercially viable.
“Shrewsbury Town Council wishes to move forward and does not want this damaging road forced on the town. With that regard the town council is part of a joint project to look at movement within the town and has commissioned transport consultants to look at this most crucial subject with a definitive remit of looking at what modern day connectivity look like.
“The town council would call on you to review major schemes like this to determine long-term viability and ability to bring about lasting generational change.
“We would very much welcome discussions with your department to see how we can collectively work to develop good transport solutions.”
Lezley Picton, Leader of Shropshire Council, 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.”