Marches LEP and Herefordshire Council are pressing ahead with their scheme to build Hereford’s north-south bypass, including a new crossing of the river Wye to the west of the city. They applied to the Department for Transport for funding (c £1.9m) to help develop the Outline Business Case and the planning application. The application documents are publicly available, so we reviewed them and wrote to DfT prior to the Autumn Statement to ask that they refuse the application for funding. We said:
- The claimed benefits for the Bypass are overstated and unsubstantiated, in some cases illusory;
- None of the many negative impacts are mentioned;
- The letters of support from several other local authorities and enterprise partnerships are too similar to have been written independently
- The evidence base is mostly made up of documents produced by the LEP, Herefordshire Council or by their consultants, with little or no outside scrutiny or independent evaluation.
We were particularly concerned to see in the application, claims that the bypass will “reinforce the importance of the A49”, allowing it to act as a sort of relief road for the increasingly congested M5/M6, and to become a major artery for traffic between north and south Wales. If this were to happen it would mean villages and settlements alongside the A49, both north and south of Hereford, would be subjected to more traffic – on a single carriageway trunk road that already has dangerous bends and junctions and an unenviable accident record. It is evident that there has been no consultation on this point with communities likely to be affected.
At the time of writing we don’t know if or when the requested funding will be provided – DfT’s list of successful schemes published after the Autumn Statement thankfully did not include the Hereford Bypass. But we don’t expect those pushing for this hugely expensive and damaging road to give up at the first attempt!