2nd December saw members of the General Overview and Scrutiny meeting come together to consider the Herefordshire Council Cabinet decision last month to approve a route of a Southern Link Road. The budgeted cost of £27.6 m has been secured through a provisional grant from the Marches LEP.
The answers to public questions and the Council officers’ response to the call-in can all be found here . It is interesting to note that some of the answers highlight the errors officers or Parsons Brinkerhoff consultants made in the original report to Cabinet. Some of the answers given, and debate in the meeting , often contradicted the information available. Key points that came out of the call-in were:-
1. The details of any Sustainable Transport Package for the South Wye area have not yet been completed and so reference to the “Package Assembly Report” in the Cabinet papers “was an error” ¹. Apparently the package of sustainable transport measures “does not influence the route selection of the SLR”, even though the Highways Agency has clearly stated that sustainable transport measures should be implemented first, before road building should be considered.
2. The argument pursued by officers in defence of the Cabinet decision for the route of a Southern Link Road was that it was decided mainly on the overall benefits of the South Wye Package. This was despite the fact that the details of the Sustainable Transport Package do not yet exist and will not be complete until the planning application for the road is available.
3. Reference was made to a Strategic Outline Business Case² for the South Wye Transport Package which apparently satisfies the Marches LEP for funding to be allocated to the South Wye Transport Package. It would be good to see this document, as this is not publicly available either through Herefordshire Council or the Marches LEP. Reference to the opinions of the Marches LEP relied heavily on hearsay as the last published minutes of this body are for June 2011.
One thing the meeting did agree is that traffic on the A49 will increase and there will be no improvements to the Belmont/Asda roundabout congestion. Ancient woodland will be lost with any of the proposed routes, because the junction with the A49 has to be where Herefordshire Council agreed the end of the Rotherwas Relief Road would be when that was planned.
The Scrutiny committee voted to return the SC2 recommendation back to Cabinet for their further consideration.
¹Page 31/11 Response to reason 6 of the call-in
²Page 6 Answer to public questions 6-8.