“Council set to drive through bypass plan” was an excellent way of grabbing the public attention in Herefordshire (Hereford Times 15.9.11). Everyone thinks we need a “bypass” and now it looks like Herefordshire Council, after all these years, is going to give Hereford what it wants. Not quite. As ever, the devil is in the detail.
- Is Hereford getting a “bypass”? NO. At a public meeting in November 2010, during the last consultation, one of Herefordshire Council’s officers Dr Nicholson explained the “current proposal is for a relief road, not a by-pass…. The road will be built in stages depending on when the funding is available. There is a link to the provision of housing so the road may run through the housing developments. It will be different to the development of a new ‘by-pass’. The road will be multi-functional.” All the technical studies on this new road show that this road will not bring relief, as car journey times will remain pretty much the same because the new housing will increase the volume of traffic. From the answer it can be seen that over the period 2011-2031 when the housing construction should take place, congestion will in fact get worse as houses will be built and occupied before the new “relief” road/bypass will be completed.
- Will the new road reduce congestion and journey times? NO Richard Ball (Assistant Director – Highways, Transport and Community Services, Herefordshire Council) explained at the same meeting in November 2010, when asked what will traffic be like in Hereford in 2026 “Hereford will remain a busy place” he explained that “the preferred option is a package for facilitating growth for Hereford. The road is a consequence of the planning for growth. The infrastructure is to help the traffic move around”. Basically the road is not to improve congestion in Hereford, (as it doesn’t do this) but to enable the City of Hereford to expand by nearly 30% over a few major strategic housing sites . The new road is more about accessing the new housing and employment sites rather than tackling congestion into Hereford City.
- How Much Will the Road Cost? NO ONE KNOWS. It has been estimated that the road could cost around £130 million but Herefordshire Council will not reveal the true cost of this road. A consultation is due to start on 26th September 2011 asking people living in Herefordshire whether they want a road but they are not being told how much THEY will be paying for it, through their council taxes. They are not even being asked whether they want the road instead of increased bed capacity in the hospital; better funding for local schools; improved bus services; more police on the streets; etc. The “consultation” is really asking if you agree that the best use of scarce resources is to build a road that wont improve congestion in Hereford. There are alternatives to a road and cheaper options, but you are not being asked about these as the politicians have made their minds up for you, unless you say NO in the consultation.
- Who is Paying for this “Housing Access” Road? THE PEOPLE OF HEREFORDSHIRE. Herefordshire Council say that it will be the housing developers, but the developers get the money from the people buying the houses. The Herefordshire Economic Viability Study (June 2011, page 22)) calculated that on average people would have to pay over £28,000 on the cost of their new home to pay for the infrastructure the Council has identified is needed for the housing growth. This is to be paid not just by people buying houses in Hereford, but those buying houses in Ledbury (+£41,400), Bromyard (+£30,100), Leominster (+£33,000) as well as many rural areas. Even with this additional charge on the house prices, the existing homeowners in Herefordshire will still have to fund an estimated £100million to £200million shortfall, when many are already suffering financial difficulties.
If you think that Herefordshire Council’s latest plan is not a good one, and you can’t afford to pay for the grandiose schemes that people on some of the highest salaries in the County have dreamt up, then all you need to do is say NO during the Herefordshire Consultation, which starts on 26th September 2011.