COUNTY business leaders have launched a campaign to save plans for a Hereford bypass following last week’s decision to halt all work on the scheme.

Herefordshire Council infrastructure and transport cabinet member John Harrington has decided to pause work on the southern link road and western relief road to commission a review into both projects.

The proposed link road, which officers see as the first stage of the bypass, has planning permission and would link the A49 Ross road to the A465 Abergavenny road.

Last year, the previous administration chose their preferred route for the western road to continue northwards from the A465 across the River Wye near Dorchester Way in Belmont and continue through Breinton between Warham Farm and Warham House.

The road would then cross Kings Acre Road near the Bay Horse Inn and continue over Yazor Brook, link with Roman Road before going over the Tillington and Canon Pyon roads and connecting with the A49 north of Holmer.

But the county council’s new leaders may decide to scrap the plans altogether in coming months.

They have now authorised officers to spend up to £120,000 to scope a review of both road schemes with a view to making a decision before the end of 2019.

But Herefordshire Business Board leaders say failure to build a bypass will hurt the local economy.

Chairman Frank Myers said: “People must realise that, if we want to be looked after in our old age, we will need a sound local economy and a prosperous, younger working population.

“No road will mean fewer jobs, fewer young people because they will leave, meaning less money to pay for care provision.

“Currently our average wage is one of the lowest in the country and we need to change that by attracting investment in higher paid jobs.

“After decades of careful progress and negotiation to get everything in place including funding and government approval, we finally got to a position where we are ready and raring to go.

“If councillors now throw it all away there may not be another opportunity for decades more and the writing off of investment already made will seriously undermine the council’s finances.

“That would be a tragic waste and run completely against the wishes of so many local people who know how badly the road is needed and how important it is for our future prosperity.

“Nobody wants more traffic and more fumes, nobody wants less investment and prosperity.

“Politicians who are party to this decision should realise they will be judged against its consequences for many years to come.”

Herefordshire and Ludlow College principal Ian Peake said he has a number of concerns about the implications of ceasing the long-term infrastructure projects.

“If the county does not make the long-promised improvements to the transport network, most notably the bypass, it is highly unlikely that the local economy will be able to develop and provide our young people with the better paid jobs they require and deserve,” he said.

“Successful local economic development and the provision of a better city environment are critical to the retention of our well-educated, skilled and highly motivated young people.”

He also said the levels of congestion in and around Hereford are unacceptable.

“This has a direct impact on the ability of students and staff to access the College at its Hereford and Holme Lacy campuses,” he said.

“The excessive pollution and congestion in the city make it a far less attractive place for staff to live, and exacerbate the challenges of recruiting and retaining good quality staff.

“The ongoing failure to improve transport systems will also have a direct impact on the county’s businesses and the development of the new university.

“It is already difficult to attract good quality staff to Herefordshire because of the relative remoteness of the county and distance from significant population centres.”

Hereford Investment Partnership chairman Doug Barrat said a bypass was vital to bringing more business to the Hereford Enterprise Zone at Rotherwas.

“Skylon Park is the largest employment site serving the county of Herefordshire,” he said.

“It is home to well over 125 businesses and has approximately 70 acres of land still available for development.

“It is also designated as one of the UK Government’s Enterprise Zones, the only one serving the Marches LEP area.”

He said Highways England have imposed caps on road movements on the site which makes a new road vital for growth.

“The current caps mean only some 300 additional vehicle trips per day at peak times will be allowed,” he said.

“The development that has already been approved and is under development means that these caps have almost been reached.

“Any proposed development on the estate which generated more journeys per day than these caps would not be guaranteed to secure planning permission due to the possible negative impacts on congestion on the A49.

“It is therefore very likely that the enterprise zone’s development could stall and the remaining sites will not be able to be developed out.”

Councillor Harrington said the council needed to consider the complex issues surrounding the two road schemes before making a definitive decision.

“Following a change of administration and with time to reflect, it has now been decided to pause all work on the Hereford bypass and southern link road to allow further time to review these schemes in more detail and look at other options,” he said.

“There are many complex issues that need to be considered and it is very important to examine these thoroughly.

“The views of residents, commuters and local businesses are very important to us.

“It is vital that travel, transport and infrastructure developments in Hereford support the economy, help to improve health and wellbeing and make Herefordshire a better place to live, work and visit.

“We also need to ensure we effectively respond to the climate emergency declared by Herefordshire Council and the Government.

“As part of this review it is important to consider alternative options.

“For example this will include infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians (including safe routes to school), an eastern river crossing and trialling the removal of some traffic signals. It could also include options for an electric bus service, improving school bus services and an ultra-light rail system.

“All options need to be considered as we look to the long term and towards providing a high quality, integrated and low carbon transport system for the whole of Herefordshire, not just for the immediate future but for generations to come.”

Coun Harrington had also considered options such as stopping all work completely on both road schemes and continuing the delivery of both projects.

The council says a total of six options have been carefully considered together with the views of local councillors.

“Given the importance of the next steps to the current schemes which were developed under previous administrations, it is appropriate to pause and review to ensure that the right decisions are made for the future of Herefordshire,” the decision notice reads.