The ‘requirement’ for a Hereford bypass, to ease traffic congestion in the city centre, has been considered by Herefordshire Council over many years.
Initial plans considered routes to both the east and west. The eastern route would have run through the western edge of our Lugg Meadows Reserve close to Lower House Farm. In 1995 the River Lugg became an SSSI and in 1996 the River Wye and the lower part of the River Lugg became a Special Area of Conservation, raising issues regarding the impact of river crossings. The western bypass would cross the River Wye once, whilst the eastern bypass also involved 2 crossings of the Lugg and 1 further crossing of the Little Lugg, close to its confluence with the Lugg, in addition to extensive damage to the Lugg meadows.
Comprehensive Government Office Multi Modal Studies carried out in the late 1990’s demonstrated that the majority of traffic movements were generated by people wanting to get into the city, not around it. On this basis, the first 2 iterations of the Hereford Transport Plan focused on other road improvements and traffic control measures including improved cycling etc. The Unitary Development Plan adopted in March 2007, removed planning protection for the eastern bypass route and did not replace this with any other route corridor.
In 2010 a Study of Options was undertaken which recommended the construction of the western route on the basis that it would have less environmental impact, particularly upon internationally and nationally important sites protected for their ecological value. This new western route, was enshrined in the current Herefordshire Local Plan by the delineation of a broad corridor for the road.
The most recent Transport Plan, covering 2016 to 2031, re-introduces the Hereford relief road on the western route, although there have been unsuccessful attempts to re-open the option of an eastern route.
Objectives of the current Transport Plan and Hereford Local Plan
The stated objectives of the new Transport Plan and the Hereford Local Plan (effectively the Neighbourhood Plan for Hereford City) are to:
- Enable economic growth - by building new roads linking new developments to the transport network and by reducing short distance car journeys.
- Provide a good quality transport network for all users – by being proactive in our asset management and by working closely with the public, Highways England and rail and bus companies.
- Promote healthy lifestyles – by making sure new developments maximise healthier and less polluting forms of transport by delivering and promoting active travel schemes and by reducing short distance single occupant car journeys on our roads.
- Make journeys easier and safer – by making bus and rail tickets compatible and easier to buy and use, by providing ‘real time’ information at well-equipped transport hubs, by improving signage to walking and cycling routes and by helping people feel safe during their journeys.
- Ensure access to services for those living in rural areas – by improving the resilience of our road network and by working closely with all transport operators to deliver a range of transport options particularly for those without a car
In developing plans for the relief road, seven routes through the broad corridor have been identified and these were issued for consultation earlier this year. We are awaiting the outcome of these consultations, which will include delineation of the final route.
Likely Impacts of the western relief road
In responding to the route options, Herefordshire Wildlife Trust will be focussing on the impacts of the relief road on wildlife. These are as follows:
- a bridge crossing over the River Wye SSSI/SAC;
- impacts on a range of habitats including grasslands, parklands, woodlands and orchards and on veteran trees and species dependent on these;
- severance of habitats and of the ‘green infrastructure’ corridors running into the city; and
- possible hydrological impacts to the Yazor Gravels – a key aquifer supporting the Yazor Brooks.
In addition, a consequence of the road construction will be later development on various plots of land enclosed by the road, with similar and cumulative impacts.
(There are likely to be severe impacts to the landscape quality of the area west of Hereford, as the bypass runs ‘against the grain’ of the landscape and is likely to involve both raised and cut sections of road to cross the varied terrain. Several properties, including large house along King’s Acre Road, and possibly in Breinton, will be demolished. However, these factors do not fall within the wildlife remit of Herefordshire Wildlife Trust.)
Herefordshire Wildlife Trust staff have met the consultants managing the wildlife surveys. This demonstrated that, with a couple of minor omissions which they agreed to rectify, they were carrying out comprehensive surveys of all the main habitats and taxa to state of the art methodology. Further, more detailed, surveys will be conducted along the corridors of the selected route this year. They agreed to make the survey information available to us. We are still investigating whether adequate information is being gathered on the impact of the road, especially the cut and fill aspects, on the Yazor Gravel aquifer.
We have confirmed that we will regard their data on biodiversity features as a comprehensive and that we can rely on these as an accurate review of the wildlife interests in the road corridor. Hence our response will be based on our own evaluation of the impact of the chosen route on biodiversity, based on the datasets they provide.
There was a consultation on the seven routes earlier this year. HWT review of the information available suggested that the southern half of the orange route, combined with the northern half of the yellow route would be have the least impact, and the black route the most severe impact.
Consultation was by means of Survey Monkey questionnaire, and a review of the questions asked reveals shortcomings in the formulation and scope of the questions being asked. Below is a screen shot of the question relating to the western relief road.
We placed our score of 5 in the landscape line, as there was no option relating to the wildlife impacts. Question 50 asked for ‘other issues’ that should be considered in selecting the route. HWT’s response was as follows:
Impact on conservation sites, including the River Wye SAC, areas of ASNW, orchards, meadows etc.
The failure of this questionnaire to include this issue as a factor to be ranked is of deep concern. The questions in this survey do not ask pertinent questions about the Transport Package, particularly the development of the western bypass. The consultation document is incorrect in it statement that this has widespread public support, as evidenced by the Examination in Public. Herefordshire Wildlife Trust remains opposed to the creation of the western bypass, which will cut across the grain of the countryside, destroy further wildlife sites and is being created primarily to facilitate further development, rather than alleviate traffic congestion in the city.
The consultation is full of references to the public 'having a say', but short on any assurance that what is said will have any influence on the development of the Transport Package. At this stage, there should be more information on the studies being carried out in the bypass corridor and how the findings of the various studies will be evaluated in developing the route options.
We are awaiting the outcome of this consultation exercise. Our approach, in principle, will be to evaluate the information provided and to follow the mitigation hierarchy i.e.:
- Avoidance of impact (responding to the route selected)
- Minimisation of impact (commenting on detailed impact of the route, once announced)
- Rehabilitation/restoration of impacts (these will be largely construction based in this instance, and may not come into play until detailed plans are available)
- Offsetting (to compensate for biodiversity losses, i.e. provision/restoration of habitats outside the immediate bypass corridor)
We anticipate that this is not likely to be possible entirely within the bypass corridor and will be discussing how Herefordshire Wildlife Trust might assist in providing compensatory habitat elsewhere in the county.