It is over 15 years since Swindon Borough Council, then Thamesdown, was considering detailed plans for a northern relief road to join up what is now Thamesdown Drive with Great Western Way, to remove the predicted pressure from routes such as Mead Way through West Swindon and Akers Way into Moredon and Cheney Manor.
Yet despite the construction of 10,000 houses in the north western sector of the town, permission for another 1,695 more at Tadpole Farm, and 700 at Ridgeway Farm in Wiltshire, little progress has been made on the provision of the road.
Now councillors, Haydon Wick Parish Council and residents alike want to know what Swindon Council is doing about it.
Plans for the link road from the north have a checkered history, being the victim of many changes in the government, local authorities, planning rules and funding programmes. The road plans were originally drawn up by the pre-1997 highway authority Wiltshire County Council, taking traffic to the east of the railway line and onto a flyover at Bruce Street Bridges.
The preferred route is now from Thamesdown Drive under or over the railway line to emerge next to B&Q on Great Western Way.
However the council has put the project on the back burner for the last few years, with councillors claiming construction would cost £100 million or more. Rodbourne Cheney councillor Des Moffat believes the cost has taken on the status of an urban myth. He said: “It was a case of plucking figures out of the air. The honest answer is that nobody has ever properly costed the route.
“The scale of building 1.3 mile of dual carriageway and a tunnel under or a bridge crossing the railway line is relatively small compared with infrastructure projects elsewhere. To put the figures in context, the 9 miles of the Newbury bypass cost just over £100 million; a current project in Norwich for an 8.7 mile dual carriageway is estimated at just over £90 million and the estimate for the 4.8km bypass at Bedale, North Yorkshire is £42 million. While the work required to cross the railway line will be expensive there is a strong likelihood that the cost quoted for so many years is a gross over-estimate.”
Calling for Swindon to treat the project with urgency Cllr Moffat said: “Central government is now advising local authorities to get some infrastructure projects ready for implementation around 2016 to 2017, so we now need to press for this road to become a reality.”
Haydon Wick Parish Council chair Richard Hailstone said: “North and West Swindon is becoming clogged with traffic. The congestion on Mead Way in West Swindon and Akers Way through Moredon is getting heavier all the time.
“The Thamesdown Drive extension is essential to the success of Swindon. We’re now experiencing the consequences of allowing all the houses to be completed and occupied in North Swindon whilst not building the road when it was first proposed.”
Expressing worry that all the planning and engineering design effort is now focussed on the Eastern Development whilst North and West Swindon is being ignored, Richard added: “In the east the council is proposing that a relief road be built between the A419 and the A420 before the houses are built. It’s good that the borough realises that infrastructure needs to go in ahead of development but we need the council to deal seriously with the problems that have been created on our side of the town.”
Explaining the council’s position Shaw councillor Keith Williams said: “Swindon Council cannot afford the road in isolation. The developers’ section 106 contribution was due to expire so was made available for other schemes. Robert Buckland MP is now making representations with central government to see what funding is possible for both this and the Wichelstowe link road.”
Cllr Dale Heenan, cabinet member for strategic planning and sustainability said: “Every resident, community group and councillor wants to see this road built. The route has been protected on the strategic plan, which will go to public enquiry next summer, and the project has been fully costed at £100m to include junction improvements and considerations for the impact on surrounding roads.
“This is a realistic costing; even in 2009 the strategic transport plan stated that it would cost a minimum of £60m. It’s now a question of getting money from developers and from central government to fund it.”
Pictured, members of Haydon Wick Parish Council and Swindon councillor Des Moffat.
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