Funding withdrawn for first phase of Hereford bypass

Image source, Herefordshire Council
Image caption,
The proposed bypass and link road were criticised after being given the green light in 2018

Funding for a long-planned city road has been withdrawn due to uncertainty about whether it will be scrapped.

The route of the Hereford bypass and southern link road was approved in 2018, but put on hold after elections the following year.

Instead the local authority has been looking at alternatives to the project.

The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has now withdrawn £27m funding for the link road, seen as the first phase of the bypass.

The council described the decision as "disappointing".

The LEP, which channels government money to the local area, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service it was also looking to claw back £3.8m already spent on the southern link road project.

If it goes ahead, the overall bypass project is expected to cost £150m and require government funding.

Before elections in May 2019, the Conservative administration said the bypass was key to delivering growth for the city, but drew criticism from environmental campaigners, among others.

Image source, Herefordshire Council
Image caption,
Marches LEP said the £27m earmarked for the southern link road could still be spent on other infrastructure projects in Herefordshire

'50:50 chance'

Following elections, a coalition led by a group of independents took control of the local authority and in August 2019 outlined details of a review into the scheme.

That review has yet to report back, but earlier this month Councillor John Harrington, who is leading it, said there was just a "50:50 chance" the bypass would go ahead.

Possible alternatives being considered by the council to alleviate congestion include building new bridges in the city and possibly a light railway on the Great Western Way, as well more separated routes for cycling and walking.

Other ideas include turning off the traffic lights at key junctions.

Mr Harrington said while disappointed by the LEP's decision, the council recognised the review risked losing the funding opportunity.

However, he said it was important to take the time to "make the right decisions" as they would have a "permanent impact upon the environment" for "generations to come".

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