CALLS to support a “traffic jam-busting” Chepstow bypass plan have been snubbed by a single vote by Forest of Dean councillors, after labelling it a “road to nowhere”.
There is seriously poor air quality in the town due to the amount of traffic chugging over the Wye Bridge towards the M48 first Severn Bridge every day.
And campaigners have been fighting for a bypass for many years as a measure which will alleviate this problem.
Many who live in places such as Sedbury, Alvington and Lydney are backing the campaigners because they are forced to sit in the long jams to get out of the Forest.
Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire County Council agreed last year to advance plans for a new road to bypass Chepstow to end congestion in the town centre and at the Highbeech roundabout.
But a motion to support Shire Hall’s efforts in bringing forward such a plan has now been rejected by one vote by Forest of Dean District Council, which is run by a Green-led administration.
Councillor Nick Evans (Con, Tidenham) put forward the motion asking the district to outline their support to the county council and write to Transport Secretary and Forest MP Mark Harper to make clear they are keen for investment in such a scheme.
Cllr Evans also wanted the district council to advocate for this investment to be included in the strategic plan for the Western Gateway partnerships as a priority.
He said the word bypass elicits strong reactions both for and against, but explained that his proposal was to support what he called a “gateway to the Forest of Dean”.
“One that gets us past bottlenecks and poor air quality. A gateway to regeneration, to job creation and prosperity,” he said.
“A gateway that will allow us to fulfil our housing needs without overburdening already stretched infrastructure and showcase the beauty and heritage of the Royal Forest to a wider audience.”
But Labour leader Shaun Stammers (Mitcheldean, Ruardean and Drybrook) said his group would not be supporting the motion.
They were not against the idea in principle, he said, that there was a lack of detail, and the council has no powers to improve transport.
“The irony of having a Conservative member talking about getting this council to write back to his own members at county level or to the secretary of state for transport who happens to be our own MP.
“If they can’t be campaigning and at the head of this, why would we take up the time of our new cabinet and council.”
Economy cabinet member Jonathan Lane (Green, Tidenham) agreed that congestion was a real blight on the lives of the people who live in his ward.
But he said while the bypass has some support from residents, talk of a Chepstow bypass has been ongoing since the 1980s and nothing has happened.
“The Welsh Government scrapped all major road schemes so alas when we discuss a bypass or a new road we, literally and metaphorically, sound like Talking Heads, we’re on a road to nowhere.”
He also said people want a practical solution and that any benefits of road schemes in terms of congestion relief are short lived while damaging the environment.
Councillors voted to reject the motion by 17 to 16.
Monmouth MP and Welsh Secretary David Davies has long called for a bypass around Chepstow, earlier this year slamming a Welsh Government decision to scrap major new road plans, saying it was a 'war on motorists' and 'devastating' for local residents.