Posted: Mon 2nd Mar 2020

Government moving forward with Flintshire Red Route plans but campaigners hope Heathrow decision could pave way for legal challenge

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Mar 2nd, 2020

Plans for the so-called Red Route – which aims to ease congestion along the A55, A494 and A548 ‘Flintshire Corridor’ are taking a further take a step forward.

The Welsh Government is about to appoint a contractor to design and plan the £300m project which has faced stiff opposition by local campaigners. 

A tendering process was launched last month, a procurement notice states:  “Welsh Ministers (WM) wish to procure a Designer and then a D&B [design and build] Contractor for its A55/A494/A548 Flintshire Corridor Improvement project.

WM are currently envisaging appointing a Designer to develop a preliminary design to WM’s Key Stage 4 project status.

WM will then seek to appoint a D&B Contractor for the completion of detailed design and construction of the project.”

On a visit to Deeside last week Transport Minister Ken Skates said a series of public exhibitions will take place in spring where its expected draft plans and timescales for project will be unveiled. 

Campaigners against the Red Route now believe any decision to build the road could be successfully challenged in court after judges said plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport were unlawful.

The controversial plan for a third runway at Heathrow Airport was deemed unlawful by the Court of Appeal last week, judges rules it plans not take climate commitments into account.

The case was brought by environmental groups, councils and the Mayor of London.

The Heathrow decision could pave the way for court action against future large road schemes on the grounds of climate impact.

The Flintshire Red Route scheme 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, some of the road will cut through ancient woodland.

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. 

Climate scientist Tom Rippeth, one of those behind a 1500 signature petition calling for the ‘Red Route’ to be scrapped, said.

“On the basis of our current discussions with the Assembly petitions committee, it is clear that the Red Route selection is based on the 2008 guidance, and takes no account of the 2017 update which incorporates the impact on climate. 

It is disappointing given the Welsh Government has recognised the Climate emergency that the only two options considered – the red and blue Route – both involve increasing CO2 emissions.

The scheme is also based on the Transport Wales plan which is now over a decade old and takes no account of technological developments over that period such as smart technology.

As such we believe this plan to drive a new road through ancient woodland could be successfully challenged  in court on a range of factors.”

In November, Deeside.com revealed  the cost of delivering the Red Route has increased by nearly 18 per cent to £300m.

The government confirmed the £45m increase on the original £250m costs was due to “VAT and inflation.

Flintshire Council has rowed back on its full support for the Red Route, Cabinet members backed the government’s decision to move forward with the scheme in 2017 but with the addition of some Blue Route elements, known as Red Route Plus.

They include a crawler lane along the westbound section of the A55 towards Halkyn and changes made to the Ewloe interchange.

The council is now demanding the crawler lane is built before work on the Red Route is complete and wants assurances “in writing” from the Welsh Government. 

Deputy Leader of Flintshire Council Carolyn Thomas revealed to a Welsh Assembly committee in October that the government hadn’t responded to their ‘Red Route Plus’ request. 

Cllr Thomas said: “We have asked for Red Route Plus. We’d like the plus bit—which is the extra crawler lane going up the hill towards Holywell—we’d like that to be done before the red route.

….We have asked Welsh Government if they could do this, and we haven’t had a response yet.”

“I would like to have that in writing that that is done before the red route is completed.” Cllr Thomas added.

A Welsh Government spokesperson told Deeside.com: “The possibility of providing additional lanes on the A55 from Northop towards Holywell will be investigated during the next stage of the development of the Flintshire Corridor scheme. 

This will include detailed assessments to confirm if any additional lanes provide value for money and offer demonstrable benefits to health and the environment. 

If they are required the timing of construction will be considered as part of the overall programme of construction for the scheme, which could mean constructing the lanes before the Flintshire Corridor if it’s shown this would provide the most benefits.”

 

 

 

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