Opponents of Stratford’s South Western Relief Road (SWRR) have seized upon a new report commissioned by the district council, which appears to cast doubt over whether it would cope with significant new housing in the area.
Stratford District Council has recently been consulting on its list of reserve housing sites, which could potentially be made available to developers should any of the housing developments outlined in the Core Strategy fail to materialise.
Accompanying the consultation, the council has commissioned a transport assessment by a company called Vectos, investigating what the impact would be on the local road network, should the reserve sites be needed.
The report concludes that the proposed SWRR could cope with the 3,500 homes planned at Long Marston Airfield, plus up to 500 more in the Long Marston Airfield Area, with only minor alterations to the current road layout.
However anything beyond this 4,000 causes problems, with significant congestion likely to occur around Clifford Chambers, even with the SWRR in place.
The report suggests a new route for the SWRR further out would be needed to cope with the increased traffic.
Although no reserve housing sites are put forward in the Long Marston Airfield Area, sites for around 800 homes have been included south of the river, which opponents of the SWRR say would bring the potential number of houses in the area to more than the road could cope with.
A statement from the Stratford Residents Action Group (SRAG), which is fighting the SWRR plan, said: “SRAG believe comments buried within the Vectos Report vindicate our position; that the SWRR is unfit for purpose and is ‘the wrong road in the wrong place’. For some reason SDC sought to bury this report – one can only imagine this was done in an attempt to hide their incompetence at pursuing the current proposal without proper assessment – something SRAG has campaigned for over 3 years.
“It is clear from SDC’s own evaluations that the proposed route of the SWRR will fail if house numbers in the LMA area increase beyond 4,000. They state within the report that the building of the SWRR will cause’ significant further congestion for Stratford’. The ‘reserved sites allocation’ includes plans for an additional 800 houses south of the river, in addition to the 3,500 at LMA.
“This means, as predicted by SRAG, the SWRR will already be well beyond capacity by the time it is completed. And yet SDC have continued to allow this road to be presented as the answer to all our current congestion problems – this is simply not true. It is naïve to believe these reserved sites won’t feed into the next core strategy – they are obviously part of a bigger plan to allow more houses to be built to the south of Stratford.
“The inclusion of an alternative route would appear to suggest that SDC now appreciate the need to consider other solutions. SRAG welcome this and would hope that all alternatives are thoroughly investigated before SDC allow the destruction of Stratford’s flood plain. We would urge anyone who has concerns over our traffic, the wellbeing of the local community, and the protection of an important area of bio diversity to press their local councillors for a response on this matter.”
Responding to SRAG’s criticism, Cllr Daren Pemberton, deputy leader and place portfolio at Stratford District Council, said: “The Long Marston Area Additional Dwellings Assessment report by Vectos was published to support the current Site Allocations Plan consultation. It is one of a number of technical transport assessments commissioned by the Council that has helped underpin the selection of potential reserve sites in the Site Allocations Plan.
“The specific reference to the South Western Relief Road (SWRR) in the report was purely to consider the potential suitability of reserve site(s) in the Long Marston area.
“This report does not address the suitability or viability of SWRR itself. It tested whether or not the Council could potentially deliver its reserve housing (e.g. 3,000 homes) in the Long Marston Area. The report confirms, not unsurprisingly, that doing so would require significant new infrastructure.
“Because of this and for other planning reasons, the Long Marston Area sites have not been included in the site allocations plan (SAP) consultation.
“When looking at other sites south of Stratford one of the key factors is whether they could be delivered regardless of the SWRR. Those sites do pass that test.
“SDC’s position throughout the SAP consultation is that there is no current need or intention to bring these sites forward because of the strength of our Core Strategy and 5 year housing land supply.
“The District Council remains committed to deliver the SWRR as offering significant relief to existing and anticipated traffic flows in Stratford as well as supporting the development at Long Marston Airfield. This will maintain the integrity of the Core Strategy and continue to deliver on the housing growth to meet our residents’ needs.
“The SWRR planning application itself is currently out for consultation and all planning issues raised are and will be assessed in detail as part of the determination of that planning application.”
Cala Homes, the developer behind the Long Marston Garden Village housing site, are believed to be committing around £44 million to build the relief road, but the cost of the project has since soared to around the £130million mark.
Warwickshire County Council are bidding for £86million from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund to cover the shortfall, but have yet to discover whether they have been successful.
A decision on the SWRR application had been expected to be made later this month, but back in July Mike Emmett, strategic land director at Cala, admitted he did not believe a decision would be made in 2019.
Such has been the escalation in the predicted cost of the road, some opponents of the scheme have questioned whether it really does offer the best value for money of the options available for mitigating traffic in the area.