Page last updated at 15:19 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 16:19 UK

Controversial plan back on track

The route of the North West Relief Road
The CPRE is concerned about the affect on the landscape

It was the mid 1980s when plans for a Shrewsbury north-west relief road were first discussed.

But for the first time, Shropshire Council has said that £85m of funding has been ring-fenced by the government.

The council now needs to consult with the public and put forward a business plan for the £100m road, which it regards as the last link in a by-pass encircling the town.

Anti-road campaigners said the section would be a "short-term fix at a high cost" and was a threat to the landscape.

HISTORY OF THE PROJECT

Mid 1980s: Shropshire County Council, now Shropshire Council, gives serious consideration to the plans.

March 1998: The county council includes the north-west relief road in its future road plans.

June 2001: The county council announces plans for a major study to re-examine plans for the £20m road.

May 2002: The county council reviews plans for the north-west relief road. It says the road could be opened in six years if the government agrees to fund the project.

January 2003: Plans are announced for public consultation on the north-west relief road.

February 2003: Friends of the Earth and the Campaign to Protect Rural England join forces to form the No Way pressure group.

May 2003: Motorists driving into Shrewsbury are surveyed as part of a month-long traffic movement study.

June 2003: 2,000 people sign a petition against the £30m road.

March 2004: Public consultations on the road take place.

February 2005: Objectors stage a protest-walk along the proposed route.

June 2005: Shrewsbury Borough Council votes in favour of the £50m road.

November 2005: The county council is awarded nearly half a million pounds of government money for a traffic study.

October 2006: Parish councils in North Shropshire put their weight behind the campaign in favour of the road. They say country lanes are being used as 'rat runs' by drivers trying to get to Shrewsbury's business parks.

January 2007: A preferred route is chosen from the A5/A458 trunk road at Churncote and the A528/A5127 junction (Battlefield Link Road), including a new crossing of the River Severn.

July 2007: The county council introduces the idea of charging motorists £1 to use the north-west relief road once it is built, as well as introducing a congestion charge in Shrewsbury.

December 2007: The county council abandons plans to link the north-west relief road with congestion charging.

December 2007: Councillors ask questions about the £2m the local authority has spent on north-west relief road studies.

July 2008: Plans are put forward to link the road to a flood alleviation scheme in order to get regional funding.

June 2009: A traffic survey is carried out on routes into Shrewsbury to gather information as part of the business case.

July 2009: The government identifies the north-west relief road as a priority and ring-fences £85m to go towards the £100m scheme, subject to the council's business plan.

THE ARGUMENTS FOR

Map of the proposed North West Relief Road
Shropshire Council's preferred route

Shropshire Council sees the north-west relief road as the final piece of the bypass which encircles Shrewsbury.

It says it would cut traffic in the town centre and reduce journey times between the north and west of the town.

The council believes it would ease congestion in the town centre and surrounding residential areas, while improving air quality and safety, and reducing noise.

It argues that "the present, inadequate highway network in the north and west of Shrewsbury has the effect of constraining development and economic growth."

It says the road would also make it easier for people living in north Shropshire to get to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is against the plans.

Transport spokeswoman Katy Anderson said she was, "surprised that the government had let this through. It is an expensive, outdated scheme.

"At the moment it takes 15 minutes to cross the town by car. The road will take a few minutes off that time, for a while, but just like at Newbury, traffic will build up again and wipe out the benefit."

She said there were more effective ways of relieving traffic congestion, such as, "better buses, more park and ride schemes, safe bike routes and car sharing.

"This decision just means the council can spend even more money on the road preparing a business case."

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Shropshire Council is hoping to put the plans out to public consultation early in 2010. If approved, a business plan would be submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT).

Planning permission would then be sought and Shropshire Council has said a public inquiry would inevitably follow.

If approved, building work is expected to start in 2014 with the first cars using the road in 2017.



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