Senedd Committee calls for Deeside ‘Red Route’ to be paused and Transport Minister to redo ‘his sums’
Climate campaigners opposed the construction of a new four lane highway across ancient Flintshire woodland have welcomed the outcome of 18 months of deliberations by the Senedd Petitions Committee.
A petition was raised in early 2019 by local residents in the Northop and Flint areas concerned about the impact on traffic around their communities and the poor consultation of the scheme. It attracted 1409 signatures.
The scheme – known as the Red Route – will see a new 13km two-lane dual carriageway linking the A55 at Northop with the A494 and A550 north of Deeside Parkway Junction via the Flintshire Bridge.
The Red Route was chosen ahead of an alternative Blue Route scheme following a 12-week consultation in 2017.
The Blue Route plan would have seen improvements along the A494 Aston Hill and the Ewloe interchange with the A55 without the need for a new road being built.
The scheme was developed alongside what was called the ‘north-east Wales area based transport study’ which has since become the North East Wales Metro.
The Metro scheme aims to deliver “sustainable, reliable, efficient and quality integrated transport network across the region” with improved rail access and integrated transport hubs
The Red Route is an integral part of Metro transport minister Ken Skates has said and is designed to ‘liberate’ road space for public transport.
“If the red route is stopped, essentially and effectively, Metro is stopped, and with it we will see a reduction in the proportion of people using public transport.” Mr Skates said an earlier evidence session.
Initial Red Route construction costs were stated at around £250m however we revealed last November costs have increased by nearly 18 percent to £300m.
To date, the Senedd Petitions Committee has considered the petition on six occasions which has included an appearance from the transport minister.
The committee – which is made up members of the Welsh Parliament including Alyn and Deeside MS Jack Sargeant – also heard evidence from the petitioners, North Wales Economic Ambition Board and Flintshire County Council.
A final report summarising the evidence heard during the session will now be published with recommendations from the committee.
In concluding their investigations the Petitions Committee has agreed unanimously to the demands of the petitioners that the scheme is paused whilst the full impact is examined by the Senedd Environment Committee, and that the planning process to be started again using the new ‘fit for purpose’ assessment process.
Petitions Committee member Michelle Brown MS (Ind, North Wales) raised concern about the financial aspect of the project costs, she said Mr Skates needs to “redo his sums because I really don’t think he’s costed this project properly.”
Leanne Wood MS ( Plaid, Rhondda) agreed that the final report from the Petitions Committee “recommend a pause in the project because we we all understand that the changes in terms of work in travelling from work to home have changed a lot as a result of the COVID -19 pandemic.”
Flint farmer Robert Hodgkinson welcomed the the outcome, he said : “I would like to thank the Petitions Committee members for all their hard work and for demonstrating common sense and fair play. We hope that the minister Ken Skates will now do the same.”
Professor Tom Rippeth, chair of STAMP, the group leading the opposition to the Red Route said: “Whilst we haven’t yet stopped this dreadful scheme, it is clear from the committee’s balanced approach in taking evidence, and the conclusion that they have come to, that it is not fit for purpose in the new post COVID world.”
“This is a great result for Welsh Democracy but the battle goes on.”
Technical advisers were appointed for the scheme back in July of last year and a contract for a designer, along with an environmental specialist will be in place by spring of next year.
Mr Skates said a public inquiry into the scheme “is likely and that’s likely to take place in the summer of 2023, and then dependent on the outcome of the inquiry, construction could begin in late 2024.”
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