A petition signed by around 1500 people urging Welsh Government to stop plans for a new dual carriageway which will run through “ancient woodland” went before a committee at the National Assembly in Cardiff on Tuesday.
The so-called ‘Red Route’ a £250m scheme aims to ease congestion problems along the Deeside corridor from the border with England at Sealand through to Northop.
Plans will see a new 13km two-lane dual carriageway, linking the A55-A5119 Northop Junction (Junction 33) with the A494 and A550 north of Deeside Parkway Junction, via Kelsterton Interchange and the Flintshire Bridge.
The Red Route was chosen ahead of an alternative ‘Blue Route’ – which would have seen improvements along the A494 Aston Hill and the Ewloe interchange with the A55 – following a 12-week consultation in 2017.
The petition has received strong support from environmentalists such as TV presenter Iolo Williams, the North Wales Wildlife Trust and the Woodland Trust.
It calls on Welsh Government to withdraw its support for the Red Route on the grounds that the construction of the new road through ancient woodland, and across agricultural land, “contradicts Planning Policy Wales and the Well-being of Future Generations Act.”
Local farmer and lead petitioner Robert Hodgkinson said:
“We were deeply unhappy with the consultation, the outcome of which was used to justify the choice of the Red Route.
The consultation was presented as a straight choice between the Red Route and the Blue route (the upgrading of Aston Hill), and ignored other less expensive yet viable options for dealing with the traffic problems here in North East Wales.
We are also unhappy that the outcome of the consultation was biased by its focus on Deeside, despite the fact that the Red Route will seriously impact residents of Northop, Flint and Flint Mountain.
The fact that the petition has received nearly 1,500 signatures shows that local residents share our concern. By petitioning the Assembly we are hoping that the petitions committee will persuade the Assembly to support our call for the decision to be reconsidered.”
In a letter to the petitions committee on June 6, Minister for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates, addressed a number of the points raised. He said:
“Whilst the red option crosses ancient woodland, the crossing location has been selected at a point where the steep-sided valley can be spanned by a viaduct with minimum effect on the watercourse and vegetation
Mitigation would include substantial, targeted areas of new woodland planting to replace or improve screening in the long-term.”
The Minister also highlighted the traffic surveys and modelling that were used to determine the impact of both the red and blue options, in addition to the public consultation undertaken in regards to the scheme.
During today’s petitions committee meeting Flintshire AM Michelle Brown said:
“I think the response that he [Ken Skates] came back with certainly raised a number of alarm bells for me.
The traffic surveys don’t seem to be the most scientific surveys they could have done, in terms of the basically pulling drivers off the road and asking them where they were coming from and where they were going to.
Governments just wasted £140 million pounds on the end for [M4] relief road.
And so I think it will be wise to at least have the minister in for further questioning.”
Mike Hedges AM suggested cobbling the petition together with several other highways related ones – in a bid to perhaps clear any backlog – and inviting Mr Skates before the committee.
Michelle Brown AM told the member for Swansea, “this isn’t a minor issue for people in North Wales. This is a major infrastructure” project.
The petitions committee has agreed to look at the issue in more detail in the autumn.