Last week Herefordshire Council took the brave step to abandon plans for the Southern Link Road and controversial Western Bypass. Herefordshire Wildlife Trust have been long opposed to both road schemes and are delighted that the Council have taken this step to protect the natural environment from certain damage. The route of the Southern Link Road would have harmed ancient woodland – an irreplaceable habitat - and cut through hedgerows and farmed habitats creating a barrier to the movement of wildlife. The continuing bypass would have impacted on multiple habitats including ancient trees, parkland, ponds, hedgerows and traditional orchards as well as potentially impacting on the Yazor aquifer, and of course, the River Wye Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
The bypass proposal for Hereford city has a long history, dating back several decades when an Eastern route threatened the River Lugg and the Lugg meadows Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Herefordshire Wildlife Trust fought hard then to highlight the damage it would do wildlife and habitats. The environmental costs of that scheme were also recognised as too great and the plans were ultimately abandoned.
The Council are still considering a second crossing on the eastern edge of Hereford City. This is deemed necessary to deliver resilience should the Greyfriars Bridge ever need closing. It’s reported this road is not an attempt to create a bypass but will link in with existing road networks going no further north than the Ledbury Road. However, this too is likely to impact on floodplain meadows and breeding curlew and thorough ecological assessments will be necessary to determine the potential harm. It may also be viewed as ‘half a bypass’ and as a result, in future years, there may be enormous pressure for its continuation to the Worcester Road, once again threatening the Lugg Meadows SSSI and Lugg River SAC.
In the meantime, there is no question that the decision taken by Herefordshire Council last week has safeguarded huge swathes of Herefordshire habitats and the wildlife they support and that is to be celebrated.