COUNTY Council leaders have revealed their preferred route for Hereford’s contentious western bypass proposals.

Herefordshire Council officers have recommended the £129m red route which would cross Kings Acre Road near the Bay Horse Inn.

The proposed route would travel between Warham Farm and Warham House and cross the River Wye close to Dorchester Way in Belmont.

A total of 4,624 residents responded to the latest consultation on the proposals and there was no clear overall preference of any of the seven routes.

Council officers also revealed that the red route would go over five houses which would need to be purchased and a further four would be affected and may see their gardens reduced.

Conservative councillor Philip Price, cabinet member for infrastructure, said the council has wanted to deliver for decades and the project was now beginning to take shape.

He said: “The bypass will be key to promoting growth and active travel in South Wye and across the city.

“It will boost Herefordshire’s economy by allowing greater access to Hereford Enterprise Zone, as well as improving journey time through reduced traffic congestion and delays.

“The technical work has shown that the red route is more appropriate than the alternative routes when considering environmental factors and minimising the impact on people and residences throughout the core strategy corridor.

“We are now letting people know about the next steps to keep local residents and businesses fully updated and involved with progress on the Hereford Transport Package, which will have huge strategic value for the whole county.”

But Councillor Bob Matthews, Independent group leader, said the Conservative administration’s choice of the red route was totally unacceptable.

He said: “I will continue to vigorously oppose them over this issue.

“First of all, this route is worryingly close to the historic Belmont Abbey and then continues to pass through an area of outstanding natural beauty at Warham, resulting in widespread environmental damage.

“It will also mean the demolition of several homes in Kings Acre Road together with the loss of a number of protected trees.

“There is a far more cost-effective and beneficial route to the east of the city which is preferred and strongly supported by local business people.”

Liberal Democrat group leader Terry James, who in the past put forward the idea for a western bypass, said he was surprised the council had chosen the red route as their preferred option.

He said: “It does more damage than some of the other routes.

“They could have been more sensitive to some of the sites along that route.”

The local Green Party said the bypass plans were ‘hugely expensive’ and should be scrapped. Robert Palgrave, Green Party spokesperson, said:

“The bypass cannot realistically be completed before 2025, and relies on external funding which is not secured.

“Cheaper more sustainable active travel measures and improved bus services are more effective solutions to city centre congestion and air pollution.”

While It’s Our County group leader Anthony Powers said there was no evidence that any of the proposed bypass routes would reduce congestion in Hereford.

He said: “A recent Department for Transport report shows new roads do not produce the expected economic growth. Council studies show 80% of city traffic is local or city-bound.

“Common sense says this will only increase with 6,500 new homes in Hereford – and that’s what the council’s consultants say too.

“Do the other measures in the Package, deal with schools transport, and a fraction of the estimated £153m road cost – already up £24m from March – will solve 80% of Hereford’s traffic problem without this needless destruction of homes, fine farmland and precious countryside.”

The Hereford Transport Package which includes the proposed routes will be considered by the council’s scrutiny committee on July 18 before the proposals are considered by cabinet on July 27.