Posted: Tue 14th Feb 2023

Welsh Government scrap A483 junction upgrade plan – call for “Decisions about North Wales should be made in North Wales” by local MS

Wrexham.com for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Feb 14th, 2023

Update: Wrexham Council have said in response to the statement, “We are writing to Welsh Government ministers to understand the wording in the transport delivery plan and our aim is to ensure the project included in this plan is fully funded by Welsh Government and delivered within the time frame of the plan.”

Welsh Government say the replacement plan referred to ‘will include feasibility/investigation of creating an exemplar multi modal residential and employment development with lower levels of car use’.

In the Senedd this afternoon Ken Skates MS asked the Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters if the £50+ million mentioned in the review documents for the A483 junctions was still available for projects around Wrexham. There didn’t appear to be an answer given, so we re-asked the question to the Deputy Minister.

Lee Waters MS replied, “One of the problems we have is that we’ve got a pipeline of schemes – 55 of them – that we don’t have the funding for. So there’s an air of unreality about today’s debate, really, our funding next year has been cut by 8% in real terms, so even if the roads review recommended they all go ahead, we simply wouldn’t be able to afford them. We are suffering austerity budgets from the UK Government and we do not have the funding to take forward all of our transport ambitions.”

Original information below…

Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters has announced that proposed junction upgrades for the A483 Wrexham bypass will not be taking place.

Welsh Government say they will work with Wrexham Council to develop multi modal improvements locally, that “…will include feasibility/investigation of creating an exemplar multi modal residential and employment development with lower levels of car use, aligned to the future road building tests’.

Modifications to the A483/A5 Halton roundabout lying to the north-east of Chirk are also not being taken forward.

The announcement came as he “set the direction for the future of transport in Wales today with a statement that puts climate change at the heart of decision making” citing the report of an independent review on the future of roads investment in Wales.

The decision has prompted Ken Skates MS to demand “…decisions over roads, buses, rail and active travel are best made at a regional level. It’s time to devolve to the North, beginning with our major roads.”

At present, decisions over whether to improve the A483, A55, A494 and A5 are made in Cardiff. Mr Skates wants those decisions to be made in North Wales – with funding also handed to the north.

He said: “We need certainty over how transport in North Wales will be improved. I’ve been Minister for Transport and Economy. The two roles are now split, but they are both incredibly demanding. Having that experience, I firmly believe that decisions over roads, buses, rail and active travel are best made at a regional level. It’s time to devolve to the North, beginning with our major roads.”

In announcing the scrapping of a range of schemes Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters told the Senedd ‘we will not get to Net Zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over’ as he set out findings from some key documents that shape the future of road building in Wales.

The new documents include the findings of the Roads Review Panel – an independent expert group tasked with assessing more than 50 road building projects – and the Welsh Government’s National Transport Delivery Plan.

Together, the documents show the status of 59 projects in total including those going ahead, those not progressing at this stage and those replaced by revised works.

The works had been on the cards for several years, delayed by the pandemic, with Ken Skates MS announcing back in 2018 funding for congestion improvements. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

A large local exercise took place with a year long ‘option assessment’ took place, looking at well researched and developed plans. Welsh Government said the plans for the bypass “would improve access into Wrexham, improve journey times and provide new active travel links for local residents”.

Junction 4 improvements appeared to be the favoured output, as outlined in the top image, however have now been scrapped.

It was hoped improvements to Junction 4 could support three employment sites within a 2 km distance of the A483, with “….the potential to create 1,454 net jobs and approximately £64.4 million of gross added value per annum”.

Speaking this afternoon in the Senedd, Lee Waters said: “Let me be very clear at the outset, we will still invest in roads. In fact, we are building new roads as I speak – but we are raising the bar for where new roads are the right response to transport problems.

“We are also investing in real alternatives, including investment in rail, bus, walking and cycling projects.

“Of course, doing that in an age of austerity is very challenging. Not only are we not getting our share of HS2 investment, but the UK Government is pushing many bus services over a cliff edge, as well as slashing our capital investment budgets.

“Even if we’d wanted to keep progressing all the road schemes in the pipeline we just do not have the money to do so. Our capital budget will be 8% lower next year in real terms as a result of the UK Government’s failure to invest in infrastructure.

“With fewer resources it becomes even more important to prioritise and the Roads Review helps us to do that.”

Going forward, the Welsh Government say they will only consider future road investment for projects that:

  • Reduce carbon emissions and support a shift to public transport, walking and cycling
  • improve safety through small-scale change
  • help the Welsh Government adapt to the impacts of climate change
  • provide connections to jobs and areas of economic activity in a way that maximises the use of public transport, walking and cycling

In developing schemes, they say the focus should be on minimising carbon emissions, not increasing road capacity, not increasing emissions through higher vehicle speeds and not adversely affecting ecologically valuable sites.

The Deputy Minister added: “Our approach for the last 70 years is not working.

“As the review points out the by-pass that was demanded to relieve congestion often ends up leading to extra traffic, which in time brings further demands for extra lanes, wider junctions and more roads. 

“Round and round we go, emitting more and more carbon as we do it and we will not get to Net Zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over. 

“When Julie James and I took up our new roles, we made clear that in this decade Wales has to make greater cuts in emissions than we have in the whole of the last three decades combined.

“Greater cuts in the next ten years than the whole of the last 30 – that’s what the science says we need to do if we are to future-proof Wales.

 “The UN General Secretary has warned that unless we act decisively now we face a ‘climate catastrophe’.

“If we are to declare a Climate and Nature Emergency, legislate to protect the Well-being of Future Generations, and put into law a requirement to reach NetZero by 2050 – we simply have to be prepared to follow through.”

In his response to Welsh Government Ken Skates MS also said decisions and funding over rail improvements in North Wales should be devolved to the region from Westminster.

He added: “At the moment, those decisions and the funding that accompanies them sit with UK Government. At the very least, should we succeed in getting a consequential of HS2 expenditure, then it should allocated fairly to the North on a track mile basis. We need to be in charge of our own transport system here in North Wales. Both Cardiff and London need to hand over the powers and funding to enable us to take charge and deliver for our citizens.”

Mr Skates welcomed assurances from the Welsh Government that it would not turn its back on the steel, car, aerospace and farming sectors in light of the roads review.

He said: “These vital sectors contribute more in carbon emissions than transport, but are undergoing revolutionary transitions. We will help them transition at the greatest pace available.”

The full section of the report can be found below…

 



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