"The battle against the proposal is waiting to be won".
That's the message from local campaigners in Hereford, who are fighting the proposed Southern Link Road.
In this guest blog, Vicki from Here for Hereford reports from the frontline.
We can report now that the battle against the proposal is waiting to be won. There are over 700 objections lodged with the Council's Planning Officer. The only significant letter of support is from the Board of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) who launched the scheme in the first place.
The Conservative Council promoting the scheme has stopped trying to pretend that the road is needed to ease traffic congestion in Hereford. The Council Leader admits the scheme is to facilitate housing development, so that Council Tax receipts (boosted by CIL and the New Homes Bonus) can increase to the point where the County is viable, without having to go into special measures, or merge with another authority.
Here for Hereford, joined by opposition groups on the Council, and Parish Councils, and by national bodies such as CBT, SUSTRANS and The Woodland Trust, have exposed the scheme for what it is - a land grab across high grade agricultural land, veteran trees, and small holdings which the Council now propose to sell off, devastating the iconic landscapes of Haywood Lodge and the ancient forest of Haye, damaging archaeological remains and so on. The proposed 3.5 KM road only touches ground level at four points. The rest is elevated or tunnelled.
Herefordshire Campaign to Protect Rural England has asked for the scheme to be taken away from the Council's Planning Committee and handed to the Planning Inspectorate for an independent hearing.
What will happen if the scheme is granted planning permission?
Determination is scheduled for June 6th unless the CPRE call-in request is agreed by DCLG.
Efforts by Here for Hereford and others have revealed (via FOI questions) that the benefit cost ratio for the scheme was calculated using speculative housing growth and ambitious employment targets, contrary to WEBtag guidance.
Furthermore the proposal was granted provisional Local Growth funding in July 2014 on the basis that active travel and sustainable transport measures were part of the scheme. Scandalously, there is still no sign of what these are, nor of how they will be funded.
If planning approval is eventually given, then the DfT anticipate scrutinising a 'Full Business Case' for the Road. Here for Hereford expects that the DfT will discover at this stage, if they have not done so already, that the scheme is dead in the water.
And if you are facing a damaging road scheme in your area, take a look at our updated Campaigners' Guide.