Herefordshire’s revived western bypass plan prompted an at times heated debate among party leaders when it was backed at a cabinet meeting yesterday (March 28).

But what are the main battle lines over this issue, which so divides the county’s politicians and public alike?

Pro 1: democracy

Inasmuch as the county’s voters sent a signal last May, it was for the bypass, according to Liberal Democrat leader Coun Terry James.

“Herefordshire Conservatives were one of only two in the county to make gains,” he said. “That must tell you something – that they adopted a LibDem policy that’s popular. Now the public want it done.”

Pro 2: network resilience

Any road maintenance work or breakdowns on Hereford’s main A49 “can cause gridlock, which is ridiculous for a modern city”, the cabinet’s environment head Coun Elissa Swinglehurst said.

Pro 3: affordable housing

The need for more affordable housing in and around Hereford is not contested. And 35 per cent of the large housing schemes enabled by the bypass would have to be affordable, Cabinet member for transport Coun Philip Price said.

Pro 4: “de-trunking” benefits

As well as giving new options for alternative transport within the city, “de-trunking” the A49 need not mean a financial hit, Coun Price claimed, given the earlier example of the A465 Abergavenny road, “for which we got a [funding] package for ongoing maintenance”.

Con 1: misaligned goals

Greens leader Coun Ellie Chowns said the report’s criteria which put the western bypass option on top did not match the goals of the county transport strategy which the cabinet had just passed.

Department for Transport guidance also “requires environmental appraisal of reasonable alternatives”, missing from the council’s roads report, she said.

The new scheme’s “embodied and operational carbon” was also at odds with the council’s recently restated commitment to net-zero, she added.

Con 2: cheaper, quicker alternatives

Pointing to how much more smoothly traffic in the city moves during school holidays, Coun Chowns said bringing back free school buses “would get loads of traffic off the roads at key times, at a tiny fraction of the cost of the bypass”.

And True Independents leader Coun Bob Matthews said upgrading Ross-on-Wye’s hospital would reduce traffic coming into the city from the south.

Con 3 : extra traffic

A streamlined A49 “will attract north-south traffic off the M6 and M5, creating serious knock-on problems”, Coun Chowns said.

And Coun Matthews said the bypass and the associated new housing development “could bring up to 30 thousand extra vehicles within 10 years”.

Con 4: achievability

With an imminent general election, “it’s not likely that funding for the bigger [western] project will be realised”, Independents for Herefordshire leader Coun Liz Harvey said, warning the final bill for it could hit half a billion pounds.

Whereas an eastern crossing “could be delivered within our own means if necessary”.