Plans for a controversial relief that would ‘plough through’ Stockport’s green belt appear to be ‘dead in the water’ following a crunch town hall vote. The proposed £500m bypass would link the A6 at Hazel Grove with the M60 at Bredbury – something supporters say is vital for tackling long-standing congestion problems in the east of the borough.
Traffic in areas such as Bredbury, Romiley and Hazel Grove has been described as ‘choking’, with residents suffering pollution, noise and inconvenience. However, opponents of the road say it would destroy the Goyt and Poise Brook valleys, create pollution and cause traffic problems in Marple, High Lane and Offerton.
The scheme missed out on government cash in 2019, but the Conservative group called on the council to ‘restate its commitment to seek funding’ and develop a business case for the road. In a motion tabled at Thursday night’s full council meeting, Coun Oliver Johnstone urged bosses to include it in the final version of the Stockport Economic Strategy, given its ‘strategic significance’.
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But this was defeated after the Labor group voted unanimously against the proposal and the Lib Dems were split on the issue, albeit with most voting for the motion. Speaking after the meeting, Labor council leader Elise Wilson said a new road that would ‘destroy wildlife and natural habitats’ was an ‘old world solution’.
“Labour’s plans for greener transport will get Stockport moving and get cars off the roads and ensure better air quality,” she said. “Work has started on a new transport interchange in the town center which will be ready for Metrolink, green buses and connected to Stockport’s train station.
“This is the future of transportation. This week we have seen our ambitious plans for a new greener bus fleet 170 strong agreed by the Department for Transport in a £50 million investment partnership with Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the bus company Stagecoach.”
“The Conservative motion, supported by most Stockport Liberal Democrats, wanted to trigger work on a new road linking the A6 in Hazel Grove, ploughing through Offerton and Bredbury to the M60.”
Conservative Coun Oliver Johnstone, who tabled the motion, was left deeply disappointed by the vote.
“It’s very frustrating,” the Hazel Grove councillor told the Local Democracy Reporting Service . “This bypass is necessary for the people who live in Hazel Grove currently.
“We can’t regenerate our district center until we relieve the congestion that currently gridlocks it. That’s something we need to happen, it’s very frustrating.”
While Coun Johnstone said the Tories were aware of misgivings on the Labor benches, he declared himself, ‘staggered’ by the Lib Dems approach. Although 13 voted for, there were five abstentions and one vote against – while two councilors left before the meeting was over.
However Lib Dem leader Coun Mark Hunter said the Labor vote came as a ‘major surprise’, given there had previously been cross-party support for developing a business case.
He noted the motion had only called for a ‘restatement’ of a position previously held by all groups, and was not linked to a ‘final decision’ on the road.
“The scheme is now dead in the water to all intents and purposes,” he said after the meeting. “The council had traditionally given all-party support to the relief road.
“It’s a fact the A6 is one of the most congested roads in Europe but the council did vote decisively on Thursday not to proceed with the business case and therefore I think the scheme is dead in the water.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.