Better Transport for Hereford

Another week, another argument between our local politicians about a western, eastern or both route for a bypass which will miraculously solve all our traffic woes.
The western route is supported by the Conservative county council and what’s left of the Lib Dems. It relies on massive housing development which will fill the roads up again. It’s such poor value for money, Government won’t even fund a survey, never mind the road itself, hence the need for lots of new houses so that the builders will be made to pay for it, putting up house prices so locals can’t afford them.
The eastern route supported by It’s Our County, the City Council and Jesse Norman MP is arguably worse. It would have to go across the Lugg Meadows, close to Tupsley houses, encouraging heavy lorries and congestion along Hampton Park Road and Ledbury Road. To say that the congestion, air pollution and noise will not be popular with residents is an understatement. This is the route already stopped by Government back in the 90s, due to cost and environmental damage. So again, they won’t give us money for it.
Our politicians keep asking for bypass funding. Every time, they are told a big no. They’re told we have to try other cheaper alternatives first, to address Hereford’s main problem which is internal, not through traffic. But they keep arguing, even though the answer is the same. Civil servants in London must think Hereford is a basket case.
As they argue instead of acting, we, our kids and elderly have to sit in poisonous traffic fumes. We endure dangerous roads for pedestrians and a cycle network which doesn’t join up. Bus services are cut. Walking or biking to school feels dangerous and unpleasant, so lots of us drive our kids instead.
We need councillors who can think out of the metal box. Instead waiting even longer for bypass cash, we could focus all our efforts on funding pedestrian, cycling and public transport facilities to rival those of the Netherlands. This isn’t anti-car. It would give us real choice about how we travel, improving public health and allowing the remaining motor traffic to flow freely. It would make our city more attractive to the tourists and businesses who bring in money.
We simply won’t get funding for a bypass until we’ve really tried the cheaper options. The £1.5million already secured is a good start, but we have to be consistent and determined to be taken seriously by government. How long are we going to wait in our traffic jams for our politicians to work this out? Or do we need new ones?

Let’s sort Hereford’s traffic right now

The news that Herefordshire Council has again failed to get funding to progress a bypass should make us all stop to think. Do we want to solve our traffic problems right now, or would we prefer to suffer another 20 years in traffic jams as we wait for them to find the money?

Most of Hereford’s traffic is internal. Half of all Hereford’s car journeys are less than 2 miles long. We could now switch our efforts to dealing with internal traffic and the 2 mile journeys which would never use a bypass anyway. This is much easier, faster and cheaper to fix.

This isn’t about forcing everyone to use a bike either. Just a small reduction in internal traffic could make the rest of it flow freely, as it does in school holidays.

Our politicians haven’t managed to deliver a bypass for decades. Do we trust them to deliver in the next 5 years when government won’t even fund a survey? Why are we still waiting? Why not solve our traffic issues now? A city wide 20MPH limit along with a proper well designed bike network, free school buses and better pedestrian facilities would make it easier and safer for our children to get to school and all of us to walk or cycle every now and then.

With air pollution a major factor in ill health for both young and old, even a small reduction in traffic volumes could reduce pressure on our underfunded NHS too, by making us all a little bit fitter, healthier and happier. We could start right now, but we need councillors who ‘get it’.

Traffic calming for Bromyard

In the early part of the Summer, we carried out a survey, asking a cross section of the residents  about traffic calming ideas in the High Street and Broad Street. They voted in favour of a 20 m.p.h. speed limit and to restrict H.G.V.s in this area.

We documented the results and passed them onto our two County Councillors,  Alan Seldon ( It’s Our County ) and Nigel Shaw ( Tory ) the local police neighbourhood team, our M.P. Bill Wiggin, and in October, we presented our findings to Bromyard Town Council, asking them to discuss the issue at the next full Council Meeting, which they failed to do.

The Police Neighbourhood Team did not respond at all. The Councillors said that they would pass our results on to relevant people from Herefordshire County Council. If they have, nobody has contacted us. Bill Wiggin said he would pass the results on to The Leader of the Council and would let us have his reaction. We’ve not heard from him since.

This is very frustrating because, though we may have carried out the survey, the results are the comments of the very people, who our MP, Town and County Councillors and the Police Team are supposed to represent.

Hopefully, the exercise has raised our profile a little. Bromyard is an extremely Conservative Town and raising any great interest here will be a hard nut to crack. We’ll soldier on anyway.

Motorway through Hereford?

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!

Serious flaws in Herefordshire Council’s Local Transport Plan consultation

Herefordshire Council is currently consulting residents on its ‘Local Transport Plan 4’ which will have effect from 2016 to 2031. Local authorities are required by the Local Transport Act of 2008 to have a local transport plan.

Hereford Green Party believes that this consultation has been made so complicated and difficult to use that very few people in Herefordshire will be bothered to respond, or will be able to make meaningful comments.

When the Council Overview & Scrutiny Committee discussed an interim report from officers about the consultation on 19 January, they heard that only 154 people had responded since early December.

The Council consultation webpage lists a total of 16 long documents as ‘policy’, ‘evidence’ or ‘related pages’. In total several hundred pages. Poor broadband connections will make it virtually impossible for many people to read these background documents.

The consultation survey asks only 15 questions about the new Policy and six about the Environmental Assessment. The questions in the survey are too narrow, and don’t invite comments or constructive criticism. The big assumptions in the proposed plan – notably the Southern Link Road and the Hereford Relief Road – are not open for discussion.

Completing the survey on-line is unsatisfactory. There is no way to go back to earlier pages, or to save partial input in order to research other materials. There are no links in the survey form to any of the evidence, making it difficult for the respondent to research anything on which questions are being asked.

There should be a clear statement listing what is being changed in LTP4 compared with the previous plan, LTP3. Ordinary members of the public are not going to spend their time comparing two 40 page documents.

It is also very concerning that the on-line survey itself is insecure – it is a simple matter to submit multiple responses. Furthermore, respondents are not required to give their names or where they live.
In contrast, comments on planning applications are not accepted without a name and address. People submitting petitions to the Council have to prove their supporters are real (or at least show they have collected names, signatures and postcodes).

Hereford Greens Spokesperson Rob Palgrave said,” The Council expects to use the results of this consultation exercise to show it has support for its new Transport Plan. The flaws in the on-line system and the poor response levels suggest that any mandate they get will be of very dubious value.”