Forest of Dean Green Party position statement on proposed 3rd river crossing (Lydney/Sharpness)

7 October 2018

The Forest of Dean Green Party acknowledges the difficulty that a large number of Forest of Dean residents experience in their daily commute to work out of the area (and students to college) due to traffic congestion. We believe that urgent action should be taken to invest in rail infrastructure and connections, plus bus connections and services, to drastically reduce traffic congestion. The Forest of Dean Green Party does not, however, support the calls for a 3rd road river crossing.
Although a 3rd road crossing would alleviate congestion at the ‘pinch points’ at either end of the A48, it would likely increase traffic on the A48 itself, which is already over-burdened and could lead to an increase in the high incidence of serious road accidents on this road.
Over the last few decades it has become clear that road improvements and constructions lead to a subsequent increase in traffic, so that the situation is never improved in the long term by additional or improved road connections. The only real improvement is brought about by the reduction in the need to travel or a change in the mode of travel. In addition, the current trend to working from home, facilitated by improved digital communications, is predicted to accelerate in future, and will be a major driver in reducing commuting. Planning policy should look at all possible ways of reducing the need to travel in preference to long-term infrastructure proposals and needs to factor in the likely increase in working from home or a community hub.
Better public transport provision and public transport connections would reduce traffic congestion and improve the quality of life for those commuting by providing less stressful journeys and improve the environment by reducing vehicle emissions. This could be delivered in the short term and at drastically less cost than an additional crossing. This should be urgently addressed, with adequate investment, to provide a convenient alternative to car use, in order to release people from a stressful commute and reduce traffic generally.
A 3rd road river crossing would increase traffic on the minor road network in the rest of the district. Minor roads with high levels of traffic are the most dangerous type of road measured in the likely occurrence of serious accidents. The cost of a crossing could be the designation of a large amount of land for housing near Lydney, which would be additional to the large number of prospective housing sites identified in the Local Plan. This development would increase traffic even further and firmly cement the Forest of Dean as a dormitory region.
The Forest of Dean Green Party is in favour of encouraging employment businesses within the Forest of Dean district and acknowledges that the overburdened road connections to and rural road network within the district is a constraining factor on the locating of businesses here. We are mindful that a 3rd crossing could possibly result in large-scale business investment providing local employment. However, industry is more likely to be located on the Sharpness side of the crossing due to easier access to the M5 (without having to cross the river, with its associated congestion and possibly tolls).
If strong evidence of significant high employment sites (rather than low employment density warehouse and distribution businesses) along the Forest of Dean side of the Severn emerged then the FoD GP would review its position but is mindful that employment provision has been used in the past to promote development of mixed use sites but the employment element hasn’t actually materialised. In relation to any development it should also be emphasised that the low lying land alongside the Severn is of international importance for wildlife. The River Severn, its’ banks and floodplain are a Ramsar site with a sensitive ecosystem. The river is also used as a flight path by wetland birds. The success of mitigation is uncertain and leaving wildlife undisturbed is always far preferable.
Funds need to be earmarked for dealing with any future erosion of the cliffs that may threaten the existing railway between Chepstow and Lydney. Any bridge would have to factor in possible effects on the Severn of global warming.
Considerable radioactively contaminated river sediments are believed to exist downstream of Lydney, from nearby historic nuclear power production, which has built up over decades. Even if the existing foundations of the old bridge were used, it is possible that the river flow may be changed by a new superstructure, which could disturb the radioactively contaminated sediments with possibly catastrophic effect on wildlife and fishing.
The Forest of Dean Green Party would favour a railway bridge, with cycle lane and footpath, if combined with improved railway connections, rather than a road bridge. If it transpires that a road crossing is fixed upon, then it is imperative that a rail crossing is included, along with foot and cycle paths. It would also be imperative to greatly improve rail connections, especially to Bristol, provide new train services and new stations in the Forest of Dean and bus routes and services connecting these stations to the rest of the Forest of Dean.
The Forest of Dean has a unique character and this would be lost if it becomes simply a dormitory region. Community fabric and facilities and the rural environment – one of the Forest of Dean’s greatest assets - would all come under ever increasing stress. The expected increased pressure for development and on existing roads would be detrimental for residents and tourism. It could also compromise the chances of achieving any protective/recognition status/designation for the area.
It should be noted that several bodies oppose the concept of a 3rd crossing including the Welsh Government, Bucks/Oxon/Northants LEP & Highways England.
The main impetus for the 3rd crossing is to further growth, with no consideration of prosperity, community, climate change, air quality or environmental sustainability. Rather than the correct procedure of starting with the identification of a problem and then assessing a range of options for resolving the problem before identifying a preferred solution, the bridge is hailed as having potential to bring further growth to the area and that is seen as an end in itself.
September 2018

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