Following the autumn statement by the Chancellor George Osborne, Ralph Smyth, Senior Transport campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), says:
“These new plans to build old road schemes have clearly been picked off a dusty shelf without time for much thinking. A return to building new roads in the name of job creation will lead to more traffic, move bottlenecks along rather than solving them, often at an irrevocable cost to the local environment. The idea is sadly all too characteristic of a Chancellor who has shown little concern for protecting our countryside.
“Laying new tarmac to allow the building of new out of town housing and superstores is not a plan for economic success but a road to disaster. It will weaken already struggling high streets and permanently disfigure our countryside.”
Examples of damaging new road schemes:
Lower Thames Crossing – Proposed in 1989 in the ‘Roads for Prosperity’ White Paper, this bridge could unleash so much new traffic would be generated that much of North Kent and South Essex could grind to a halt. The Government has ‘committed’ to this scheme before detailed plans for any route have been drawn up let alone costed. The environmental impact on the Kent Downs could be devastating.
Kingskerswell Bypass, Devon – The Department for Transport awarded Devon millions this summer to cut car trips and reduce the need to travel around Newton Abbott, now the Treasury is proposing to do the opposite by spending millions on this bypass first planned in the 1930s. Despite the cost of slicing through rare and beautiful habitats on Kerswell Downs, the road is predicted simply to move traffic jams down the road into Torbay.
A453, Nottingham – Though described as widening, most of the dual carriageway would be off the existing route, ploughing through agricultural land in the Green Belt. Even with the road built, by 2030 congestion during the morning peak is predicted to be worse than it is now. If High Speed 2 goes ahead, East Midlands Parkway station, which the road links to, may see its rail services cut, damaging the justification for the road.
Manchester Airport Link Road – Originally scrapped in 1998, this dual carriageway would rip through countryside that is Stockport’s green lungs, ancient woodland in the Ladybrook Valley and decimate ponds near Styall that are the home of protected Great Crested newts.
Ralph Smyth concludes: “The French investment plan proposes spending just a fifteenth on roads, with most of the rest going to rail and local public transport schemes. Osborne clearly has a lot of learning to do if he wants to catch up with our competitors.”