Posted: Mon 4th Mar 2024

Wrexham Council ‘chosing to torpedo their own local development plan’ unhelpful for wider transport planning says Minister for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area

The reputation of some Wrexham Councillors appears low in Cardiff still, with the recent Local Development Plan issues being blamed as unhelpful when it comes to regional transport planning.

Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Climate Change, made the comments while giving the Welsh Government’s response to the North Wales transport commission output.

Issues across North Wales had a focus during the debate, with Sam Rowlands MS referenced the report recognising “…the importance of travelling connections between north Wales and England, and that the improved transport links will, and I quote ‘bring more job opportunities within people’s reach, both for those in north Wales and in the north-west of England’.

The MS said, “I must say, I was a little disappointed perhaps in the way you were referring to them in your earlier comments, but it was pleasing to see that the report recognises the importance of the new investment zone for Wrexham and Flintshire” , and asked, “Could you expand on how the Welsh Government will harness the benefits of the investment zone for proposed transport schemes through the new skills and training that people will receive?”

The Deputy Minister replied, “As you know, one of the recommendations of the roads review was to look at Wrexham and to judge it against both our ‘Future Wales’ planning policy and the Wales transport strategy, and we are trying to do the work with the local authority there. The fact that they have chosen to torpedo their own local development plan doesn’t help, because we need to take transport and planning together simultaneously, because they are so integral to each other. So, we are keen to keep working with them as they develop the regional transport plan as part of the north Wales corporate joint committee, and to do that, as I say, in tandem with its housing plans, so we make sure that developments are not simply creating an extra congestion pressure in one point, which then creates further congestion for the rest of the area.

“Part of the roads review as well was looking at sites that have been identified as primarily for economic development—and there were a number of those—and not to, in a sense, create bypasses by stealth, by creating an out-of-town development without any thought as to how people would get to it other than by car. We’ve set up a group, led by Councillor Llinos Medi, the leader of Ynys Môn council, and Councillor Anthony Hunt, the leader of Torfaen, to look, through an economic development lens, at how we can make sure that we do facilitate economic development projects and development, but do it in a way that doesn’t add to our congestion problem and, indeed, helps with our modal shift agenda. I met with that group, I think it was last week, and they are making good progress.

“The key now, has got to be those regional transport plans. This is for the north to decide its priorities. I know there have been calls for us to devolve budgets and transport entirely to the north and that is the opportunity for the corporate joint committee to prove its worth, to take forward these plans, based on this, I hope, the Burns report, this pipeline of schemes, which will make the Wrexham investment zone tie in with the town of Wrexham and where the people who are living there need to get to, and tie them up to public transport, so that they don’t have to have a car. People will always want to have a car, people will need to have a car, but we shouldn’t force people into only having the car as a viable option, which, too often, we do. And this report is about providing practical alternatives.”

Jack Sargeant MS also asked about issues in Flintshire , “Residents in Alyn and Deeside see the problems presented by congestion on Aston Hill every single day. The congestion means longer journey times and poorer air quality. I supported the red route because it would improve the air quality for these residents, as I understood it. If this route isn’t happening, people have to be offered usable alternatives”, “Can you set out how you envisage investment in north-east Wales happening, and how I can update my residents in that regard?”

The Deputy Minister replied, “Yes, I think that this report is an important follow-on to the roads review that made that conclusion on the red route, because it sets out what a public transport alternative looks like in practice, and the concrete steps that we need to take to get there. So, I hope that he will look at the detailed recommendations for his part of north-east Wales and see that, were these all to be implemented, they would create a viable alternative for people.

“In recognise his points on Aston Hill. He’s aware that the evidence is very clear: you can’t build your way out of congestion. We have always recognised that there are going to be elements of the old red route that will need a road-based intervention to solve them, and Aston Hill is likely to be one of those. Work is ongoing to design and develop that. Obviously, we didn’t have the money to build the red route, regardless of whether or not we thought it was a good idea, and there simply aren’t several hundreds of millions of pounds waiting to be spent on alternative schemes. So, we need to get that developed, alongside alternatives, through a coherent regional transport plan, and implement that.

“Also, one of the key recommendations is the new station at Deeside for the industrial estate. It has costings next to it, and, again, that’s another thing where we need to get rail investment to put in place for all those thousands of people who work every day in Deeside—where you currently have no option but to go by car—to give them a real alternative. I think that there are lots of examples like that through this report that can give people hope that we are not just stopping things, we are providing alternatives.”

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