Shropshire throws cash at NWRR as costs soar

29/02/2024
Chris Ames

Shropshire Council has agreed a further £17m capital funding for its planned Shrewsbury North West Relief Road (NWRR) as the controversial scheme faces a new threat of legal action.

The highway authority said the request for further funding ‘reflects the increase in costs due to the complexity and scale of the scheme, as well as an extended planning process and subsequent high inflation rates’.

It said the cash will be used to complete ‘several key preparatory activities that have been delayed by the elongation of the planning process, alongside the completion of the Full Business Case’, which is now expected in December and will provide an updated cost.

Around £7m will come from the Department for Transport (DfT) as part of the Large Local Majors Grant for 2024-25, with the remaining money being match funded by the council through developer contributions.

The council claimed that the cost of the scheme ‘remains at £80.7m’, but admitted it had recently been subject to ‘uncontrollable inflationary pressures’. Opponents have said it could now cost more than £200m.

The council said last week that its officers are in regular contact with the Department for Transport and ‘have been given no reason to believe that Government support for the Shrewsbury NWRR will be anything other than that announced by the Secretary of State’.

It added: ‘Further guidance on this is expected imminently.’

However, on Monday, roads minister Guy Opperman cast doubt on transport secretary Mark Harper's earlier pledge of ‘full funding’, stating only that more cash ‘might come’.

He told the BBC: ‘We’re funding the entirety of the outline business case, again using HS2 money.

‘But we’re waiting for the final decision [on] the final business case from the local authority in respect of Shrewsbury relief road.’

Better Shrewsbury Transport (BeST), which campaigns against the scheme, said it is working with high-profile law firm Good Law Practice to launch a legal challenge to the scheme.

BeST spokesperson Mike Streetly said: ‘The council has ignored the advice of the Environment Agency, a statutory consultee, and is proceeding with an Environmental Impact Assessment that the EA says is inadequate and incomplete, putting Shrewsbury’s water supply at risk of permanent contamination.

‘The council has walked straight into this legal challenge by ignoring the advice of experts over several years.’

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