A £300m road building scheme that would see ancient woodland being disturbed, should be paused while further traffic studies are done and its value for money reconsidered, a Senedd committee has recommended.
The Senedd’s Petitions committee has told ministers to look again at the project with a detailed re-assessment of costs and to stop any work until the effect of the pandemic on traffic patterns is fully known.
It also wants further work done with the Woodland Trust and Natural Resources Wales if and when the detailed design stage does take place to “mitigate and minimise any impacts on areas of ancient woodland”, said a report by Wales Online.
The Welsh Government is planning to build a 13km, two-lane A55 expansion linking Northop with the A494 and A550 north of Deeside Parkway Junction.
Committee chair Janet Finch-Saunders, Conservative MS for Aberconwy, said there had been strong opinions on both sides of the argument heard by the committee. “The committee has concluded that it would be prudent for the Welsh Government to consider the longer-term impact of the pandemic on work and travel patterns, before it commits to further detailed design work and a final decision on whether or not the new road should be built.
“We have a made a number of other recommendations around the appraisal of the scheme, its costs and detailed design. We have done so in the acknowledgement that the forthcoming Senedd election means that further decisions will be taken by a future Welsh Government and any further scrutiny that may be required will be undertaken by the next Senedd.”
Professor Tom Rippeth, speaking on behalf of the group which submitted the petition, said: “The Covid pandemic is a game changer, particularly with the Welsh Government policy rightly aiming to facilitate more home working in post-Covid Wales.
He added: “We have already seen a spiralling in costs of the scheme from £210 million in 2017 to over £300 million last year. With all of these additional costs identified in the report it is easy to imagine the final construction costs being being double those originally envisaged, which coupled with the Covid-related fall in commuter traffic suggests the scheme will no longer be value for money.”