WORK has finally started on the Rotherwas Access road - more than 20 years after it was first proposed.

Contractors moved on site this week to start construction work on the £12 million project to link the Rotherwas Industrial Estate with the A49.

Supporters of the scheme say the project will clear the way for the expansion of the Hereford estate, bringing new jobs and prosperity to the city.

But opponents claim it will cause congestion and could leave Herefordshire Council facing a huge bill if an associated housing development does not go ahead.

The contractor, Alfred McAlpine, has until the end of May 2008 to finish the road but it has told local residents it hopes to complete the work earlier.

Work will be started at both ends and in the middle of the 3.3-kilometre route and some construction is planned at night to alleviate traffic congestion and help keep construction workers safe.

People living in the area have been told noise will be kept as low as possible.

A new bridge will be built to carry the Hoarwithy Road over the access road and there will also be an underpass between Hoarwithy Road and Watery Lane, as well as culverts where the road crosses the Norton and Red Brooks.

The scheme will also include a range of environmental measures, including tree and hedgerow removal and re-planting and general landscaping.

Rotherwas Industrial Estate has 140 companies and employs nearly 3,000 people but campaigners for the road say the development has been prevented from fulfilling its full potential because of the lack of adequate access.