Agenda item

South Wye Transport Package

To consider consultation responses and confirm a preferred package for a new link road from the A49 to the A465.


Cabinet were presented with reports recommending a preferred route for the new link road from the A49 to the A465, together with details of the consultation responses received during the public consultation period in July and August 2014.


The Cabinet Member for Infrastructure introduced the item giving details of how the proposed road fits into the core strategy, opens up business and housing growth and addresses transport problems within the South Wye area. He thanked the Cabinet Members who attended a site visit earlier in the week to the area of the route options.


He confirmed that route SC2 was the preferred route to progress to planning application stage, and had been chosen following the assessment work carried out by consultants Parsons Brinkerhoff and review of public consultation feedback. This is the most southerly of the route options passing under Haywood Lane and over the railway line. Funding for the route was in place and would come from Government funding through the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).


The Assistant Director, Place Based Commissioning advised that if the preferred route was selected by Cabinet, the project will proceed to the planning stage. Further reports would be made to Cabinet once planning approval was in place, to enable the project to progress.


The Construction Manager gave cabinet the background of the project from 2010. She confirmed in 2013 consultants Parsons Brinkerhoff were asked by the council to look at the eight identified options available. Through 2013 residents were kept up to date with the progress of their work and in July 2014 public exhibitions were held giving details of the proposed routes.


The Construction Manager confirmed that a professional review had been undertaken by Herefordshire Council project team and they are content with the Preferred Option Report which accompanies the cabinet report and recommends SC2 as the preferred route.


Ben Pritchard from Parsons Brinkerhoff (PB) presented a slide show, showing the eight original route options. He confirmed four of the eight had been discounted prior to public consultation due to their impact on avoidable ancient woodland areas and impact on residential and listed buildings. The four remaining routes were considered and presented for public consultation over the summer.   Three further routes were assessed in detail post the consultation in response to comments received.  Further slides were shown of the extra three route options considered, an appraisal summary table showing the scores given to each route using the Department of Transport WebTag system, the costs of the proposed routes and concluding with the preferred route, SC2.


A Cabinet Member asked about the status of Grafton Wood. Four routes had been discounted due to their impact on other ancient woodlands areas but four remaining routes had an impact on Grafton Wood, an explanation of this was requested.            `


Ben Pritchard (PB) confirmed the project team had been made aware of Grafton Wood being added to Natural England’s ancient woodland inventory in July 2014.


Phil Davidson (PB) advised the ecological value of all of the woodlands in the route corridor had been surveyed. The results of the surveys showed the relative values of each woodland area. Newton Coppice and Hayleasow Wood had a higher ecological value, whilst Grafton Wood was at the lower end of the scale. In line with standard practice for environmental assessments, consideration was given to whether woodland can be avoided and then if not how the impact can be mitigated. 


Slides were shown of Grafton Wood and Newton Coppice to show the differences between them.


Ben Pritchard (PB), added that based on feedback from the Highways Agency and good highway design practice, the junction with the A49 has to be onto the existing roundabout, leading to the Rotherwas access road. Another roundabout could not be added to the road and the alignment of the southern link road would need to comply with highway standards this meant that none of the routes would be able to avoid Grafton Wood given its proximity to the A49, whilst still meeting appropriate highway standards and it was therefore appropriate to seek to mitigate its impact.


A Cabinet Member asked about the visual impact of the preferred route going over the railway rather than under.


Ben Pritchard (PB), confirmed this was the preferred option due to the added costs of going under the railway line, the engineering that would be needed to do that and also the potential risk of the road under the line flooding.


A Cabinet Member asked if members could be assured the consultation currently carried out was robust enough, and appropriate, for the stage the project was at.


Ben Pritchard (PB) confirmed consultation had taken place over the summer as outlined in the report and that this included with the Highways Agency, Natural England, English Heritage, the County Ecologist, and the Utility companies.


A Group Leader asked for further clarification concerning route SC2 going through ancient woodland at Grafton Wood, when other routes were discounted because of them going through ancient woodland.


Phil Davidson (PB) repeated his earlier comments about the relative ecological importance of Grafton Wood compared with the other woodlands and the mitigation process used whereby it is preferred to avoid ancient woodland but not always possible to do so. He quoted the National Planning Policy Framework which says a scheme should avoid ancient woodland wherever possible, unless the need for and the benefits of a scheme outweigh its loss.


A Group Leader raised concerns about the consultation process carried out, stating that English Heritage and Sustrans had not been consulted, and queried if the consultation carried out could withstand a Judicial Review.


Ben Pritchard (PB) confirmed that independent legal advice had been sought to confirm if the non-statutory consultation was robust. This had confirmed that it had been robust. He confirmed they are also actively engaged with statutory consultees and dialogue would continue through the statutory planning process.


A Group Leader asked if value for money will be gained from the project if the road does not go to the east of the city.


The Assistant Director, Place Based Commissioning stated that the southern link road is a standalone scheme but benefits include enabling further development at the Enterprise Zone. There would also be benefits arising from environmental improvements along the Belmont Road.


Ben Pritchard (PB) advised a package of measures, including the southern link road, are needed to unlock the Enterprise Zone. Routes in the south wye area are currently congested and difficult to use for walking and cycling and alternative, smaller roads, are not made for high volumes of traffic. The road alone is not sufficient to address all of the problems in the study area but will bring benefits when combined as part of a package of measures, including sustainable transport improvements.


A Group Leader raised further concerns about the loss of ancient woodland, reminding members that once lost, it cannot be replaced. Concern was also raised about the justification for a southern relief road when new roads can lead to increased traffic, drawing in traffic from other areas and other means of reducing traffic, such as walking and cycling should be examined instead.


The Assistant Director, Place Based Commissioning gave details of the sustainable transport projects that have been put into place, including the ‘Choose how you Move’ campaign and the Connect2 bridge.  Whilst more could be done to improve sustainable transport facilities, the council has made significant investments in this regard over recent years.  He confirmed the South Wye Transport Package includes a range of sustainable transport measures and is part of the council’s strategy to do more to promote public transport, cycling and walking in the south wye area. It was noted that the specific sustainable transport measures will be finalised once a route had been confirmed.


The Cabinet Member for Infrastructure pointed out the continuing improvements to the A465 in Wales and how the South Wye Transport Package will continue these improvements into Herefordshire and the Enterprise Zone.


A Ward Member gave details of the current problems experienced in Belmont due to the traffic congestion. Although supportive of the scheme queries were raised concerning the proposed route going over the railway line rather than under and the increased noise this may cause to people living in the south west area of the city.


The Chairman advised that the ward member would be written to in order to answer the specific queries about the railway line and the traffic congestion in his ward.


A Ward Member questioned if the southern route is needed as he felt there is more pressing need for further river crossings.


A Ward Member gave support for the need of a southern link road, but voiced concerns about the process that had been followed concerning the route passing through Grafton Wood and the consultations that had been undertaken with English Heritage. The question was raised again about if the work done so far was robust enough to withstand a public enquiry.


Ben Pritchard (PB) confirmed that independent legal advice had confirmed the consultation work carried out was sufficient and robust.


A Ward Member spoke to give support to the proposal in order to improve access to the Enterprise Zone and improve employment prospects.


A Group Leader questioned if the preferred route could be amended, by taking elements from another route option, to take it away from Grafton Wood.


Ben Pritchard (PB) advised the design could not be able to be amended in such a way whilst still meeting the objectives of the scheme.  In order to achieve such a change, it would not be possible to continue to comply with Highways Agency requirements and design standards appropriate for the route. 


In summing up the discussions the Chairman stated that the decision at this meeting was to approve a preferred route.  The decision would then enable a planning application to be submitted and this would provide the formal opportunity for issues to be raised and considered and looked as part of that process.





(a)           route SC2 is selected as the preferred route for the Southern Link Road (SLR)

(b)          authority is delegated to Assistant Director Place Based Commissioning to prepare and submit a planning application for a scheme along route SC2.

(c)           subject to planning consent being obtained authority is delegated to the Assistant Director Place Based Commissioning to continue detailed design of the scheme and develop proposals for land acquisition. A further report will be prepared for cabinet outlining land and property acquisition plans and draft orders in due course.



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