Further analysis is needed on a proposed controversial new road in the Vale of Glamorgan, transport planners have said.
The road would link Sycamore Cross on the A48 with Junction 34 of the M4. A 12-week public consultation last year raised concerns about the impact on the environment and local communities.
Responding to those concerns, the Vale of Glamorgan council has now said transport planners must analyse further how the road would fit in with the new context of Covid-19 and the climate emergency.
In a report to the council’s cabinet, which meets on Monday, March 22, detailed responses were given to the main concerns raised in the consultation. The cabinet will be asked to approve further analysis, before moving on to writing up a full business case for the road.
The case for the road is to improve transport across the region, including to Cardiff Airport, St Athan’s Enterprise Zone, and new housing developments. It would likely cost around £66 million to build, and is dependent on funding from the Welsh Government.
However, the proposals have drawn criticism from villagers in Pendoylan whose houses would be knocked down, cyclists using country lanes which could be blocked off, and Coed Cymru which has warned ancient woodland would be felled to make way for the road.
Two options for the new road were consulted on: one to the east of Pendoylan and one to the west. The report revealed transport planners are edging towards the western route, as it is better value for money than the eastern one.
As well as suggesting further analysis, the cabinet report addressed the main concerns including the impact on the climate, environment, walkers and cyclists, and uncertain future of the financially struggling Cardiff Airport.
On cycling, the new road would include a segregated ‘active travel route’ for cyclists and walkers, the report said. Country lanes blocked off could have bridges or underpasses for walkers and cyclists to cross the new road.
The report said: “There is currently poor infrastructure and local connectivity by walking and cycling through the study area, and there is potential to implement new cycle connections. An active travel route is an integral component of the concept options.
“Should a preferred option progress to the next stage of assessment and a need to block the lanes confirmed, access for non-motorised users to safely cross under or over the bypass would be accommodated as part of the design.”
On climate change, campaigners raised concerns a new road would increase private car journeys and carbon emissions.
Both the Welsh Government and the Vale council declared a climate emergency in 2019, pledging to reduce carbon emissions in an effort to prevent catastrophic increases in global temperatures.
A big part of the plan to reduce emissions in Wales is changing how people travel: fewer journeys in private cars and more by walking, cycling and in public transport.
The report said further analysis would include a ‘carbon assessment and climate resilience’ report, and would explore how to reduce the carbon impact of the road. It did not mention what these methods could include.
Several areas of ancient woodland would have “very large adverse impacts” according to the report. But further assessment would examine the exact effects of the loss of that woodland.
The report said: “The environmental assessment would examine the loss of woodland in terms of its use in flood retention, water quality, social value, carbon capture, landscape value and cultural heritage value, as well as its value to biodiversity.”
If the “very large adverse impacts” can’t be avoided by redesigning the road, new trees could be planted elsewhere to compensate for the loss of ancient woodland. This would include moving and replanting some of the old trees and soil.
The next stage would also include a wider, detailed environmental impact assessment, and recommendations on how to mitigate potential impacts on the environment surrounding the proposed road.
Another concern raised has been the uncertain future of Cardiff Airport, which was recently bailed out by the Welsh Government with a £42.6 million grant.
But transport planners pointed to plans to make it easier to get to the airport on foot, by bike, bus, train, and in private motor vehicles.
The cabinet report said: “While recognising that the basis of future studies would increasingly need to consider the emerging trends and patterns resulting from Covid-19, it is understood that the long-term vision of the airport remains at this present time.”
Responding to the report, campaigners have renewed calls for the Vale council to scrap the plans for the road altogether.
A spokesperson for Vale Communities for Future Generations said: “Why the Vale of Glamorgan council is persisting in wasting public money on keeping this outdated road plan alive is hard to understand. The sheer volume of recent objections to the proposal clearly indicates the public has other priorities.
“The original 2017 Vale council assumption was that the road was needed for better vehicle access to Cardiff Airport — which was denied by the airport management.
“Since then the airport’s passenger numbers have shrunk, millions of pounds of public money has been spent by the Welsh Government on propping it up financially and the future of air travel globally is uncertain post Covid 19 pandemic.
“These are hardly the circumstances under which to continue promoting an expensive and environmentally destructive road building plan that was developed before the Vale of Glamorgan council and the Welsh Government declared a climate emergency in 2019.
“It is time for this plan to be recognised as a prime example of outdated thinking, and finally scrapped so that Vale of Glamorgan council can prioritise spending on environmentally sound projects.”