Agenda item

New Road Strategy for Hereford

The report seeks Cabinet’s agreement to the revised priorities within the Hereford Transport Strategy and to agree to draw down investment in new road infrastructure to improve network resilience and support the growth and development of Herefordshire in accordance with the current Local Transport Plan and Core Strategy policy frameworks.



The cabinet member for transport and infrastructure provided background information and an overview of the report. It was explained that traffic congestion had been a problem in Hereford for many years, causing journey unreliability and negatively impacting the local economy, environment and health of local residents.


It was noted that the problems were recognised by the Council, Midlands Connect (the sub regional transport body) and National Highways (which was responsible for the A49).


It was highlighted that the official diversion route in the event of the closure of Greyfriars Bridge was 38 miles long, which created issues with network resilience far wider than the city itself.


It was also highlighted that the Herefordshire Economic Plan stated that the county had the lowest productivity of any county in England. Wages were 16% below the national average and traffic congestion created increased costs for business, discouraged investment and created difficulties for residents in accessing training, work, leisure and other services.


The cabinet member pointed out that the draft Local Plan had identified a need for thousands of new homes in the city and additional employment land to support the economy, but highway capacity limits were restricting the full development of key sites.

It was stated that congestion on the A49 splits the city in two and that a road link would be an essential part of transport package that would include active travel measures.

The cabinet member pointed out that any new road would need to support Cabinet’s objectives to: deliver economic benefits, improve network resilience, detrunk the existing A49, deliver traffic benefits, support city centre improvements and support the draft Local Plan.


The cabinet member for transport and infrastructure acknowledged the undoubted merits of the strategic outline business case for the Eastern River Crossing and Link Road. However, following like-for-like comparisons carried out by officers and consultants, the Hereford Western Bypass remained Council policy and the report showed the Western Bypass to be more effective than the Eastern Crossing in addressing the Cabinet’s objectives.


The Council was currently in the design and deliver stage for a number of grant funded active travel measures throughout the city, these measures would provide greater choice in how to travel, but would not improve the capacity or resilience of the road network. It was stated that the measure would benefit greatly from the detrunking of the A49, which would only be achievable through the adoption of the proposed Western Bypass.


The cabinet member for transport and infrastructure concluded by pointing out that the report identified both capital and revenue funding to progress both phases of the Hereford Western Bypass. Additionally, the Council had recently been notified of its allocation of over £100 million of local transport funding over a seven year period and was currently engaged with the Department of Transport on how to progress the scheme.


Cabinet members were invited to comment:


The cabinet member for economy and growth supported the strategy and felt that it would resolve road congestion issues, allow for affordable housing and encourage investment in the economy.


Confirmation was sought from the cabinet member for adults, health and wellbeing regarding the percentage of affordable housing that could be achievable on the potential housing land, which would be opened up by the building of the bypass. The cabinet member for transport and infrastructure stated that the figure in Hereford would be up to 35% of affordable homes.


The cabinet member for community and assets enquired, in relation to the proposed detrunking of the A49, what assurance would be given from the Department of Transport and National Highways to ongoing maintenance and funding of the road and particularly the bridge, should the Council add the road to its network.


The cabinet member for transport and infrastructure responded to the question by explaining that it would fall within the negotiations with the Council’s funding partners. The majority of the development would be externally funded and as part of that, the question would arise about the detrunking and the responsibility of the road that was being detrunked. To be able to give the space and requirement to the city for other modal shift benefits the Council needed that space. The negotiations would determine what would be provided as a funding package and what state the road would be in when it was handed to the Council. The detrunking of the A465 was provided as an example of how a similar situation had been managed historically.


The cabinet member for finance and corporate services supported the Western Bypass proposal and believed that the reduced congestion would reduce costs for local businesses and create a better environment for local inward investment.


Cabinet members agreed that Hereford Council needed to be in control of its own destiny when it came to strategic infrastructure and advancing schemes that prioritise local requirements. The Council could not simply wait for other agencies to come up with schemes, such as duelling the A49 between Hereford and Ross-on-Wye, which was not currently planned.


The Leader of the council noted that consideration of road options in the past had been clear about the strategic value of going west and enquired whether the cabinet member for transport and infrastructure was surprised that the latest officer report had come back with the same conclusions.


In response, the cabinet member for transport stated that he was not surprised and noted that the latest report had been produced by a completely new set of officers, who had compared different schemes on a like-for-like basis and concluded that the Western Bypass project was the only scheme that would allow for the detrunking of the A49, which would provide the city centre with the space required for future active travel. Congestion had been plaguing the county for a very long time and there was no argument not to move forward.


Group leaders were invited to comment and give their group’s views:


The group leader of the True Independents referred to a Department of Transport paper warning of dire congestion on access roads in UK towns and cities by 2027. Qualified engineers had warned that a road to the west of the county would increase congestion in the access roads to the Hereford city centre.


The group leader of the True Independents stated there was a need for joined-up working with local MPs to modernise the local rail network and public transport in general. It was suggested that running a bypass through the centre of 18,000 houses would increase carbon emissions, light and noise pollution and contradict objectives as set out in the Local Transport Plan.


The group leader for the True Independents emphasised the need for providing more services locally and proposed the modernisation of Ross-on-Wye Community Hospital and the creation of a new market town to the south of the county, which would reduce traffic flow into the city centre and also reduce medium and long travel distances in line with Local Transport Plan objectives.


The group leader of the Green Party agreed with Cabinet that traffic congestion was a problem (but at specific times) within the county and that doing nothing was not an option. However, the group leader noted that only two options had been considered and that this was a blinkered approach to resolving the problem.


Local people the group leader had engaged with were disillusioned about the idea of a bypass and were doubtful it would ever happen, the cost of £300 million and 15 year timescale involved in building the bypass was also of concern to residents. There was an appetite for solutions that would have an immediate impact on congestion.


The group leader for the Green Party suggested that funding released from the HS2 project could be used to fund quicker and cheaper projects, such as free school transport, which would reduce the number of vehicles on the roads at peak congestion times.


The group leader stated that at £300 million the proposal did not represent good value for money and pointed out that the report showed that the most significant journey reductions times would be just 2-4 minutes, which would ‘not make a dent’ in the congestion problem.


It was suggested that building more houses would exacerbate congestion in already clogged roads coming into the city from the west, and that the bypass might actually hamper productivity in the county, as people heading North to South and vice versa might avoid the city completely. It was also suggested that traffic currently going down the M6 and M5 between North and South Wales would be attracted to the A49, which would adversely impact surrounding communities.


Concerns were raised that the cost for walking and cycling measures had been included in the Eastern Bridge proposal, but not the Western Bypass.

It was noted that para 84 of the report didn’t contain any information on the actual carbon impacts of the proposal. The embodied and operational carbon impacts of building the bypass had been assessed back in 2020, and the question was asked, why, as a starting point, was information from reports that had already been conducted not being taken forward.


It was highlighted that no reference was made to the environmental performance for route options in the summary table at para 87, which compared the western and eastern routes and that this was requirement of the Department for Trade guidance.

The question was asked why the objectives in the bypass paper were not joined up with those set out in the Local Transport Plan.


The group leader for the Independents for Herefordshire described how strategic planning could assist in making informed decisions and balance out future risks and probabilities.


The Independents for Herefordshire recognised the work that had gone into preparing the decision, but were disappointed that the traffic modelling had not considered the impact of the Eastern River Crossing in combination with the Southern Link Road, as this would have been worthwhile in demonstrating that the eastern route would deliver greater improvement to the city's traffic troubles, in addition to being cheaper, quicker and easier to deliver than the western route.


It was also suggested that the eastern route would benefit the travel experience of people who lived and worked in and around the city, unlike the western route, which aimed mostly to improve the transit of vehicles wishing to avoid Hereford all together.


The group leader for the Independents for Herefordshire raised concerns that the City Masterplan was seemingly being ignored while important decisions were being made.


The group leader for the Liberal Democrats pointed out that 25 years ago the Hereford Times paper had printed a headline ‘Go West’ in relation to the proposed plans for a bypass and that the public were now sick of the prevarication going on over the bypass issue and just wanted it done.


The group leader for the Liberal Democrats suggested that Hereford needed to be a working place where young people could make a living and prosper. Young people wanted a vibrant economy and they were not going to get it if things carried on as they had been. Each of the market towns including Ross, Ledbury, Bromyard and Leominster had bypasses, and the question was asked why was it that Hereford did not have one, when there was overwhelming public support for it.


Councillor David Hitchiner was permitted by the Leader to speak on behalf of the Stoney Street Ward. It was pointed out that current plans for Clehonger roundabout only featured four arms, which would potentially necessitate a costly and disruptive rebuild to link it up to the western bypass if/when it was built. The Councillor asked the Cabinet if it agreed the roundabout needed to be looked at again and whether it would commission Aon to do the design work.


Councillor Hitchiner also highlighted data set out in para 69 of the report, which anticipated traffic increases of over 80% at Allensmore and Clehonger, with Madley anticipated to see a reduction of 31%. An explanation for local residents as to what was behind those figures was requested.


On the subject of road safety, Councillor Hitchiner expressed concern about the impact on smaller villages around the county. It was noted that there was reference to the project increasing road safety in Hereford, but that information should also be provided on the impact for residents living outside of Hereford.


The Leader of the Council thanked the group leaders and Councillor Hitchiner for their contributions and gave an assurance that when Cabinet was in a position to make a decision about which strategic route to explore, then it would be able to address all of the issues that had been raised during the meeting.


The Leader of the Council acknowledged the merits of the Eastern link and noted that the Eastern Link shouldn’t be referred to as a bypass, as unlike the Western route, the Eastern route cannot connect to the A49.    


In response to the Leader’s question the cabinet member for transport and infrastructure detailed the many issues he believed would be created by adopting the eastern route and stated that ultimately, based on his personal experience and guidance and data provided by Council officers, he had been reassured that he western proposal was the correct option to support.


It was unanimously resolved that Cabinet:


(a)   Agrees to recommence progress within the existing policy frameworks of the Hereford Western Bypass linking the A49 north and south of the city. Consisting of the Southern Link Road as Phase 1 and the Western Bypass as Phase 2 to realise the county’s strategic housing and employment land growth critical to the Herefordshire economy, as set out in the report;

(b)   Acknowledges the Strategic Outline Case report for the Eastern River Crossing and Link Road;

(c)   Agrees to draw down and spend £10.3m of approved capital funding for Phase 1 of the Hereford Western Bypass (HWB) and £760,000 of revenue funding for Phase 2 of the HWB as included in this report at para 102 to 107; and

(d)   Delegates authority to take all operational decisions during the development of the schemes to the Corporate Director for Economy and Environment in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Transport and Infrastructure and the Section 151 Officer.


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