New roads do not relieve traffic congestion or boost local economies but devastate the environment, according to a study commissioned by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
The study, which it is claimed is “the largest ever independent review of completed road schemes in England” finds that recent road schemes, rather than provide solutions, have encouraged millions of extra car journeys each year, resulting in greater congestion of local roads.
More than half of the road schemes analysed, it was found, harmed protected landscapes and designated environmental sites, including National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, ancient woodland and historic places. Overall, there was evidence that 80% of schemes built damaged the surrounding environment.
The study also questions the benefits of the road building programme planned by Highways England set to triple spending to £3 billion a year by 2020.
The CPRE said: “Of roads promoted for their benefits to the local economy, just one in five demonstrated any evidence at all of economic benefit, and that was weak. More than half of the road schemes analysed harmed protected landscapes and designated environmental sites, including National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, ancient woodland and historic places.”
A Highways England spokeswoman said recently that its road building programme would “ensure our roads continue to operate safely, efficiently and effectively”.
Reaction from local councillors in Guildford was mixed. Council leader Paul Spooner (Con, South Ash South & Tongham), said: “Interesting to see the change of strategy from CPRE.
“Previously they were arguing that infrastructure was necessary to support development and when funding comes forward to support infrastructure it now makes things worse. Sadly this damages the credibility of this campaign group.
“But opposition councillors appeared to partly or completely agree with the CPRE study. Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) said: I think the building of the M25 and the constant need to widen it ever since the “completion” date shows what we all really know, the more road you build, the more cars will fill it. This has been proven around the world.“There is however a difference between extending road networks and improving connectivity through rationalising junctions, which is what is sorely needed around Guildford and Waverley. The existing roads need to work effectively if we are ever to embrace driverless cars, a jam at an inadequate junction will still be a jam whether the car is driven by a person or not.
“The bottom line is that we need a vastly improved public transport system and until the government will back this, instead of new roads, we are never going to succeed.
“The Conservative government must invest nationally in public transport if we are to solve the traffic problems – and improve our air quality, surely equally important for many reasons.”
Susan Parker (GGG, Send) said: “I welcome this sensible research from CPRE. It states clearly what many of us believe – road building does not ultimately resolve congestion.
“Building roads should not be seen as a panacea for our congested area. A few million pounds for minor adjustments to the A3 will certainly not allow the population to increase by around a quarter, as has been proposed under the previous draft Local Plan.
“It is about time that local and national politicians started to recognise that our environment matters and that people care about it.”
This article is taken from the amazing on-line Guildford Newspaper the Guildford Dragon.