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Opinion

Welsh Government is condemning rural communities to misery by ditching road projects

10 Dec 2021 6 minutes Read
Map of the proposed Llanbedr Bypass. Screengrab from SNPA planning application.

Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru MS for Dwyfor Meirionnydd

The Welsh Government has won plaudits for ditching road projects.

But all it is doing is condemning rural communities to misery while big roads to serve dirty industries will keep getting built.

It was reported across the globe that Wales was leading the world by stopping road building. Of course, this was not quite the case, they said they were putting to a halt to new road projects.

The spark for the wave of green back slapping was the cancelation of a by-pass of the small Snowdonia village of Llanbedr.

All the people of Llanbedr wanted was to have a short one mile stretch of road to provide some relief from the throngs of tourist traffic that chokes the village for much of the year.

So, the Welsh Government made the announcement, the adulation rolled in from around the world and Ministers got to go to COP 26 in Glasgow and accept all the praise.

But I’m sure those in the chorus singing the praises of the Welsh Government would be outraged to realise that the wool had been pulled over their eyes.

Because, while Llanbedr has been denied a much-needed by-pass to ease congestion, the Welsh Government will continue with other large road building projects.

Only in May they allowed the dualling of 11miles on the Heads of the Valleys, the A465, in order to allow hundreds of thousands of vehicles to travel up to 70mph and join the English Midlands motorway network.

Labour’s own Rhondda Cynon Taf Council have passed the dualling of the A4119 too.

In fact, the small print of the Government’s moratorium states:

“Access roads with the primary purpose of linking a site or premises for heavy industry to the public highway, or within the boundary of a heavy industry development site, will be excluded from the review. Access roads with the primary purpose of serving residential, retail and light office / light industrial developments should be paused at the next decision gateway to allow them to be considered by the review panel.”

Large dirty roads

Let’s unpack that. Basically, the building of large dirty roads to service large dirty businesses are exempt but building smaller roads in largely rural areas are blocked.

I’m sure that this isn’t what international environmentalists thought of when they cheered on the Welsh Government for their road building policy.

I raised this point with the First Minister this week and asked him to explain the rational and science behind this seemingly hypocritical decision the decision. Unfortunately, he had no answer.

Furthermore, one of the central reasons given for halting the development was because the design speed of the new by-pass was 60mph. The author naturally felt that this was environmentally damaging. However, in their savage reply to the report the Local Authority makes clear that they offered to change the plan to 40mph, which would make a huge difference to the level of carbon emissions. The authority says that by not mentioning this in the report, it is akin to withholding evidence. That’s some accusation.

Llanbedr suffers regular congestion problems, with tailbacks up to a mile long during the tourist season, which also impacts on every community along the stunning Meirionnydd coast.

The pretty village regularly sees logjams on it’s one main road, and as a result residents who suffer respiratory illnesses and other health complications suffer.

Parents are forced to use cars to take their children less than half a mile to school because of the dangers of crossing the bridge and walking along the side of the road.

One heart patient told me how he suffered a heart incident, and the ambulance had to contact the air ambulance because there was no way that the road ambulance could navigate the traffic and get him to Ysbyty Gwynedd (the nearest district general hospital, over 40 miles away) in time to save his life. And suppliers to local businesses are threatening to stop supplies because of the time their lorry drivers are wasting queueing on the road.

Lack of public transport

Numerous young people are compelled to buy private vehicles because of a lack of public transport. And elderly people told us that they were paying large amounts of their pensions to taxi firms in order to visit the GP or get to and from the shops in time.

It was why these residents were infuriated by the government’s decision to stop the development of the by-pass, which would have improved their quality of life immeasurably.

Like so many other rural communities, Llanbedr isn’t blessed with a host of public services.

While the government claim they will fund alternatives to the by-pass the offer is for one-off spending, however it would require a massively improved services and regular on-going costs to ensure that residents could go to the shops or places of work.

It is also a relatively poor community, with a median household income of a little over £25k – amongst the lowest in the UK.

In fact, at the same time as the Government announced that they were going to scrap the Llanbedr scheme, their own Future Generations Commissioner published a report arguing that poorer, remote communities who do not have access to public transport or effective active travel could be left behind as Governments take urgent action to tackle climate change. This is exactly what is happening in Llanbedr.

Larger urban areas where wealth is centralised have benefited from huge infrastructure investment, with residents being able to commute freely via public transport and enjoy a wealth of services within minutes.

Yet, the miniscule investment in infrastructure required to allow the movement of people and wealth is now being denied to more impoverished rural areas, dressed up as environmental progress while dirtier, more damaging projects are given the go ahead elsewhere.

This scheme needs to be reinstated, and the government, if they are serious about tackling climate change and not simply chasing headlines, should concentrate on taking action in areas where it will make a genuine difference.


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Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
6 months ago

Whilst it’s certainly the case that Llanbedr needs this congestion relief, the issue also highlights the impact of overtourism in this part of Wales, and the economic marginalisation it causes. Not so very long ago both RAF Llanbedr and the nearby former Coleg Harlech provided some all year round alternative employment. The ‘Peace Dividend’ caused the ‘mothballing’ of RAF Llanbedr, and Coleg Harlech suffered from Welsh Labour’s failure to properly support a unique institution, completely renaging on its traditional championing of education for education’s sake and the wholehearted embracing of neoliberal values in education. It’s mystifying in the extreme to… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

This decision to scrap the bypass needs reversing.

Letting Coleg Harlech go to the dogs was a crime for a labour government.

RAE Llanbedr to be correct.

Argol Fawr
Argol Fawr
6 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

An opinion, fair enough. But the arguments?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 months ago
Reply to  Argol Fawr

We both know the arguments…

Glyn Jones
Glyn Jones
6 months ago

Problem ddyrys iawn, a dw i ddim yn honni o gwbl fod yna atebion hawdd, ond tybed ai symptom yw hyn o broblem fwy sylfaenol, sef y mewnlifiad enfawr i’n broydd Cymraeg, neu i’n cyn-froydd Cymraeg bellach, sydd yn ddim amgenach na gwladychu: Lleiafrif o bobl Llanbedr sydd wedi eu geni yng Nghymru (47.67% yn ôl cyfrifiad 2011) Mae hyn yn cyfateb bron yn union i’r nifer sy’n siarad Cymraeg (47.4% – ward Dyffryn Ardudwy yn ehangach). Dyma ddangos at ei gilydd nad yw pobl sy’n symud i’r ardal o du hwnt i Gymru yn dysgu’r Gymraeg, sydd wedi ei… Read more »

Philip Jones
Philip Jones
6 months ago

Direct action?

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
6 months ago

The main reason for congestion in Llanbedr is the on-street parking by residents and delivery vans. See Streetview for examples. If everyone obeyed the parking restrictions there would be no need for the road. My question is about that yellow patch on the map, the images of the bypass and climate change. The plan is to build an embankment then wall off the bypass and create a causeway because that whole section to the north is due underwater by 2050 at the latest. It is probable that the houses there will need to be abandoned as the road displaces floodplain… Read more »

Argol Fawr
Argol Fawr
6 months ago
Reply to  Kerry Davies

… as well as the recently built sewage treatment works.

Malcolm rj
Malcolm rj
6 months ago

I think that this tinkering with things its no good causes more pollution for example my car avarage mileage drops on the motorway when it goes to 50mph and All that stop and start and also you’re All that bunches of vehicles I don’t know if I’m right .there seems too be a lot of accidents lately on the M4 and also to join a motorway when they are all bunched up doing 50mph is really dodgey

Argol Fawr
Argol Fawr
6 months ago

It may be misery for tourists, it’s an inconvenience for us residents as to work we mostly travel early/late. Sort out the gammy parking and it’ll reduce the problem. Why take a sledgehammer to crack s nut.
Hordes of tourists travel to Cwm Bychan with all its narrow, winding lane issues. Should we have a road widening scheme for there as well?

stub Mandrel
6 months ago

As an environmentalist, I find it hard to understand how the Llanbedr bypass wouldnt be beneficial in the long run. Reducing pollution from huge traffic queues for a start. Also residents point out that a bypass could just be an ordinary single carriageway 40mph limit road, with minimal impact and cost. This would bring most benefit with minimum cost, environmentally and fiscally.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 months ago
Reply to  stub Mandrel

Well put…

Argol Fawr
Argol Fawr
6 months ago
Reply to  stub Mandrel

Most recent cars have engine start/stop technology so sitting in queues shouldn’t be causing needless polution…. Just inconvenience. A good motivator not to drive as a significant number of journeys are unnecessary. Road standards dictate road design. I doubt if its within GCC/Welsh Gov’s gift to change.

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