A RIFT between neighbouring authorities has been revealed over controversial transport proposals.
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) came under fire from residents and councillors before Christmas over the draft transport strategy, which included proposals for a Western Relief Road (WRR) designed to reduce traffic through Chester.
One of two options for the major development saw a new road across the Dee and around into a large area of Flintshire, passing through Broughton and Saltney.
But the full extent of Flintshire Council’s anger has now come to light in a letter to CWAC written in November and copied last week to Broughton and Bretton Community Council.
Flintshire’s head of planning Andrew Farrow accused CWAC planners of acting on a ‘whim’ with little regard for their Welsh neighbours.
Mr Farrow says: “The clear emphasis is to ‘maximise the benefits for Chester’– and it is clear that communities in Flintshire must take the impact.”
He continues: “The strategy seems to simply accept there will be ‘significant increased traffic levels through Saltney and Broughton’ and that Flintshire County Council must accept this as part of the greater benefits to accrue for Chester.”
Particular concern is expressed at the emergence of a second option for the WRR route in addition to the older protected route that had been in place for many years.
Mr Farrow said: “The council is concerned the emergence of Option 2 has emerged seemingly at a whim of your council with no prior formal discussion or consultation.
“There is nothing to explain why it is not viable to pursue the protected route and what has prompted the alternative route.
“We are particularly concerned that a large part of the route travels through land in Flintshire north of the River Dee.”
Mr Farrow said the land known as Watersmeet was designated as green barrier and classed as best and most versatile agricultural land.
He asked why the draft included the suggested route when CWAC’s general approach was to protect such land from development.
“If that is seen as acceptable policy for CWAC, why is it not good enough to be applied in Flintshire to land in the same context?”
In the letter that also attacked suggestions for a spur road to serve Hawarden Airport, a new rail station at Queensferry and plans for 1,300 new homes on greenbelt land, Mr Farrow also queried assertions the WRR would have benefits for Flintshire.
“There is no clarity of what these would be,” he said.
He also suggested the scheme “would be so cost prohibitive as to make it an unviable proposition on any timeframe”.
Mr Farrow said it was premature to have proposed such a scheme “to then begin to carry out viability”.
“Surely this should have been done before making the proposal and also before expectations and community concerns have been raised.”
Flintshire Council, he said, ‘cannot in any way support such a proposal and must reserve judgement” and said a more appropriate draft must include a full assessment of the principle, feasibility and viability of such a scheme’.
In a statement last week, Flintshire Council’s planning strategy manager Andy Roberts said that following submission of the response, officers were aware that the strategy had recently received CWAC cabinet approval.
“There has been no direct communication from CWAC to this effect, however, and no feedback provided to the council on the issues it raised.
“A further request to meet to discuss the strategy and its status will be made to CWAC.”
A CWAC spokesman said: “A feasibility study is to be undertaken later this year to examine the viability of the proposed Chester Western Relief Road including examinations of alternative routes to its current protected alignment and stress that discussions will include all interested parties.”