Herefordshire cabinet members last week voted to pause work on the Hereford Bypass and the Southern Link Road and to consider other options, due to concerns including the project’s likely impact on climate change.
A preferred route for the Hereford Bypass, a proposed two-lane single carriageway road to the west of Hereford, connecting the A49 to the north of the town with the A465 to the south, was announced in 2018.
In June this year, Herefordshire Council commissioned detailed design work on the project prior to a planning application being submitted.
Permission for the 3.6km Southern Link Road, which would form the second part of the bypass route from the A465 to the A49 to the south of Hereford, was granted by the council in 2016.
But the decision prompted concerns about the loss of ancient woodland, with campaign group the Woodland Trust describing the scheme as "highly inappropriate and entirely unacceptable".
Plans for both the bypass and link road progressed under the council's previous Conservative administration. However, the authority changed control following May's local elections and is now run by an independent-led administration.
Prior to the cabinet decision being taken, council officers advised that the road projects were expected to support development of the Hereford Enterprise Zone (HEZ) and the 6,500 homes due to be delivered in Hereford by 2032, in accordance with the authority’s core strategy. A review of the core strategy is expected to begin this year, they said.
Failure to proceed with the projects would halve housing delivery over the plan period, officers said: "Without this infrastructure in place housing growth would be constrained to the housing cap of 3,250 new homes."
They added: "Not progressing these packages could restrict or delay the development on the HEZ and prevent or delay the delivery of housing and other developments identified for Hereford in the core strategy.
"A delay in delivering housing in Hereford could also reduce the housing land supply for the county and restrict the council’s ability to resist unplanned housing developments and undermine the plan led approach."
Council spending on the two projects to date totals £16.5 million. Alternative transport projects to be considered include an ultra-light rail system, an eastern link road or river crossing, an electric bus fleet and a trial removal of traffic signals.
John Harrington, cabinet member for infrastructure and transport, said: "Following a change of administration and with time to reflect, it has now been decided to pause all work on the Hereford bypass and Southern link road to allow further time to review these schemes in more detail and look at other options.
"There are many complex issues that need to be considered and it is very important to examine these thoroughly.
"All options need to be considered as we look to the long term and towards providing a high quality, integrated and low carbon transport system for the whole of Herefordshire, not just for the immediate future but for generations to come."
He added: "It is vital that travel, transport and infrastructure developments in Hereford support the economy, help to improve health and wellbeing and make Herefordshire a better place to live, work and visit. We also need to ensure we effectively respond to the climate emergency declared by Herefordshire Council and the government."