Campaigners in the North West have raised the alarm over a 'strategic road by stealth' that would enclose a vast area of green belt and undermine public transport in the city.
Our colleagues from the North West Transport Roundtable (NW TAR) have published a report this week, showing that a series of road schemes, being promoted by different bodies and agencies, would in fact link up to create a new 30-mile strategic road all the way from the M60 in Stockport to the M6 in Cheshire.
Added to a new 'feasibility study' of roads across the Pennines, the scale (and cost) of possible road-building in the area is immense.
With several of the schemes intended to allow development, the danger is that – once the roads are in place - the whole area will be vulnerable to new building and the new traffic it will bring, blighting a very precious stretch of countryside, and even impacting on research at the world-leading Jodrell Bank Observatory.
New developments would add to the destruction already being caused by 'Manchester Airport City', an Enterprise Zone described as spreading a 'concrete shadow' by this excellent piece in the Ecologist, and would bring more traffic into the urban areas of Manchester and undermine some really positive progress in recent years, where traffic growth has stopped and public transport has been a priority for the city.
Keith Buchan of the Metropolitan Transport Research Unit, produced the new report, after realising that many of the roads in the region fit together to form a major new strategic route with far-reaching consequences.
The report concludes with a call for a proper, strategic assessment of the plans as a whole, and campaigners are now joining together to demand a full review of the cumulative impact of these schemes. This review should look at the traffic impact of all these road plans, and also look at alternative ways of providing transport, including local public transport and new strategic rail lines, which preserve the green belt and don't increase car dependency in the area.
The new route is shown on our map of the stealth road plans - literally the only map in existence where you can see all the schemes in one place because of the way the schemes are being promoted by several different authorities. The different schemes are:
South East Manchester Multi-Modal Study (SEMMMS) schemes:
- A6-Manchester Airport Relief Road (A6-MARR)
- A6 Stockport North-South Bypass
- A523 Poynton Bypass / Poynton Relief Road (incorporating the Poynton to Macclesfield Improvement)
- Improvement to M6 junction 17 at Sandbach (due to start in May 2014) plus 'Smart Motorway'/ hard shoulder running proposals for the M6 throughout Cheshire
- Longer term plans for providing more capacity on the M56
- A556 Knutsford to Bowdon Improvement – a new alignment and dual carriageway between the M6 and M56, which would increase pollution across a wide area.
Department for Transport:
- Transpennine Feasibility Study – an initiative from transport ministers to look at new or wider routes between Manchester and Sheffield
- Congleton Link Road
- South West Macclesfield distributor road
- A536 Congleton – Macclesfield Improvement
- A534 Sandbach – Congleton Improvement
For our press alert, which has more details about the plans above, we gathered comments from Keith Buchan and local campaginers and councillors.
"Nowhere is the cumulative impact of these road plans being debated, but there is no doubt that the plans – taken together – would be likely to have a major impact across a wide area."
Kim Barrett of campaign group PAULA, which is opposed to the SEMMMS A6-Manchester Airport Relief Road (A6-MARR), says:
"The plan to push a polluting, traffic-generating dual carriageway through our area, in order to facilitate massive expansion at Manchester Airport, is just one of many schemes, the impact of which must be considered together. Rather than having to fight each one in turn, far better would be a debate on whether local people want to see their area transformed by an ever-growing road network, or would prefer the money to be spent on improved cycling provision and public transport."
Councillor Paul Crompton, Chairman of Somerford Parish Council, which would be impacted severely by the Congleton Link Road, says:
"No-one has put forward a case for this new strategic road and it wider implications are not understood. What we do know is that as local people affected by these plans we feel overwhelmed and ignored."
Re-use of our map: the Ordnance Survey base map is used under an Open Government Licence, and can be reproduced with the credit shown.