‘Waste’ complaint over £1.7m spent on road axed by Welsh Government
The Welsh Conservatives have complained of a waste of public money after it was revealed that nearly £1.7m had been spent on planning for a road project which was cancelled by the Welsh Government last week.
Labour’s Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters announced last week they wouldn’t be pressing ahead with plans to build the planned 1.5km road bypassing the village of Llanbedr in Meirionnydd, saying that public transport solutions should be offered instead.
In a written statement, he confirmed that £1.472m had been provided to Gwynedd Council for the scheme so far, and another £200k was thought to have been spent before cancellation.
Ministers based the decision on the need to slash carbon emissions – a goal heightened by the COP UN climate change conference in Glasgow.
But Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Transport, Natasha Asghar MS, said that the road would have helped the environment and air quality by slashing the number of cars stuck in traffic with engines running.
Accentuated by the narrowness of a listed bridge over the river Artro in the centre of the village, summer traffic is often at a standstill due to street parking and the number of junctions on to the A496 leading into Llanbedr.
“Motorists were hoping this road would be the answer to their prayers and end traffic jams and long commutes in the area, but sadly Labour ministers have decided to let them carry on suffering,” Natasha Asghar said.
“I find it astounding and appalling that this huge amount of taxpayer cash has been poured down the drain and there is absolutely nothing to show for it in north Wales.
“It is a double blow for residents and commuters as not only are they not getting a solution to traffic problems in Llanbedr, but now they learn their money has been well and truly wasted.
“Labour ministers must stop using the environment as a shield to shirk off their responsibility to the issues road users are facing and give us clear plans about what they now intend to do as keeping the public in the dark achieves nothing.”
Responding to criticism over the decision last week, Lee Waters told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the authority should be acting upon the climate emergency that councillors themselves declared in 2019.
Noting that although he “understood” local disappointment, he said, “Gwynedd Council declared a climate emergency as did most councils throughout Wales, as did our Senedd.
“It’s no good leaders and decision-makers signing up to the principle of taking action on climate change and then when it comes to the actions necessary to follow that through, running away and saying alarming things.
“That just is not the leadership the scale of our times requires us to make.”
Noting that the decision was “not a matter of money,” he added that decision makers wanted to work with Gwynedd Council to look at alternative solutions to tackle local congestion without adding to the climate emergency.
Acknowledging the “difficult situation,” he said that the ongoing Cop26 summit in Glasgow was a backdrop to the need to “do things differently.”
“You look at rural Germany, rural Switzerland, far sparser populations than Llanbedr but they have a functioning public transport system.
“We don’t have that here because of Tory privatisation of the buses in the mid-80s, but we’re working to turn that round with proper investment which we’ll free up by cancelling some road schemes.
“We’ll be able to work with local authorities to give people genuine alternatives to the car, since they currently don’t have one.
“But that means some difficult disruptive change in the short term to get to that point, and I appreciate it’s difficult and uncomfortable but I’m afraid it’s what we need to do.”
Additional reporting by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
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