1 Dec 2023
Roads or Nature?
We are very grateful to Denise Crampton (Ludlow 21 Sustainable Transport Group) and Mike Streetly (Better Shrewsbury Transport) for their contributions to this article.
On the 31st October 2023 Shropshire Council (SC) Northern Planning Committee approved the construction of the North West Relief Road (NWRR) by a majority of 6 to 5. Mike Streetly, of Better Shrewsbury Transport (BeST), comments: “The planning conditions are still to be agreed with relevant parties such as the Environment Agency. The full business case is expected to come to the council for approval during autumn 2024 and, if approved, work to build the road could start as early as summer 2025. The cost appears to be underwritten by money from the cancelled HS2 programme.”
The decision ignores both expert and popular objections, and will cancel out the carbon saving initiatives we need to reach net zero carbon. The proposal is both out of date and ecologically destructive.
Out of date….
It is almost 40 years ago that the NWRR was proposed, based on historic objectives of facilitating private transport. It will be a single carriageway road linking the A5 from the Welshpool Road roundabout in the west to the Ellesmere Road roundabout in the East. New bridges over the River Severn (and its flood plain) and the Shrewsbury-Chester railway line will have to be built. SC have combined its Oxon link road application within the NWRR, primarily to facilitate Shrewsbury’s West Urban expansion (SUE) strategic objectives. CPRE has shown that road schemes generate more traffic than background trends over the longer term, leading to permanent and significant environmental and landscape damage with little evidence of economic benefit to local communities.
To achieve carbon reduction objectives, we must reduce privately owned transport in favour of shared and public travel options. Available resources should be directed at improvements in our existing shared transport network – trains and buses – and to facilitate active travel such as cycling. The NWRR cuts across Shropshire Council’s own climate emergency declaration in 2019 and the UK’s legally binding net zero pledges. It is estimated that NWRR’s construction will create 48,000 tonnes of embedded carbon emissions (for an estimated annual operational saving of 359 tonnes); it won’t be carbon neutral for more than 130 years!
Organisations including the Woodland Trust, Shrewsbury Friends of the Earth, Shropshire Wildlife Trust, and SC’s own Ecology and Tree Teams have voiced concern. The NWRR conflicts with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which seeks to protect ancient trees from destruction. We risk losing 4km of biodiverse hedgerows; over ten hectares of vital agricultural land; and over a thousand trees – which include 9 magnificent veteran trees one of which is the 550-year-old ‘Darwin Oak’. NWWR would remove significant quantities of high quality agricultural land and, once developed, would generate further air, noise and particulate pollution exacerbating the environmental destruction.
Concerns have also been raised over the risk to water supply from both contamination and flooding. The Environment Agency has raised objections about the risk that the NWRR poses to the water supply for 100,000 people in Shrewsbury and west Shropshire (as far south as Church Stretton). The scheme involves building a roundabout above the inner Source Protection Zone (SPZ) of Severn Trent Water's Shelton borehole. The council has acknowledged that “were contamination of the town’s water supply to occur, the impact would be catastrophic.”
What can you do?
If you are a resident of Shrewsbury or west Shropshire (as far south as Church Stretton) an Open Letter to the Environment Agency and Severn Trent about the water contamination issue has been written which you can sign while the link remains active https://forms.gle/ZDsHk71RR6NmhPQi7
Discuss your concerns with your local councilor.