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Historians urge by-pass caution

Created on 24/12/2010 @ 14:56
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While Newtown was celebrating the news that a proposed bypass route has been ‘protected’ by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG), historians have warned residents not to get too carried away.
The town has been struck by crippling traffic problems compounded by alterations this year around the Tesco junction and last week campaigners were celebrating after the WAG confirmed that no construction can be carried out on or around the ‘orange route’.
It seemed that there was finally light at the end of the tunnel, but historians have seen it all before and have reminded fellow residents that similar measures have been taken on previously proposed routes that have not materialised.
“While this is a positive development for the town, unfortunately it is something that we have been through before,” said David Pugh, President of the Newtown Civic Society (right). “The proposal is set to be considered for budget in the spring so until it is accepted and scheduled there is still nothing final.”
The Newtown Civic Society takes a special interest in the town’s buildings environment and has also become custodians for the town’s history.
Mr. Pugh has tracked Newtown’s by-pass or a relief road plans all the way back to 1947 and reiterated that until it is approved in the budget, the town is no closer to having it built than it was 63 years ago.
“On December 1, 1947, the Montgomeryshire Joint Planning Committee was told that the Ministry of Transport had plans for a bypass,” explained Mr Pugh. “The route is now occupied by the Vastre Estate, Treowen, Newtown High School, Maesyrhandir and Maesydail.
“In 1968, the Mid Wales New Town Development Corporation embarked upon its task of doubling the size of Newtown and revitalising the economy of Mid Wales. They published a comprehensive plan and as well as proposals for houses and factories it included a second road bridge across the river and a “relief road” to the south of the town.
“By 1973, the need for an adequate bypass was accepted and a draft route was identified. For some years this route was kept clear of development. As a government agency the Development Corporation could only undertake schemes that the government was prepared to pay for. In January 1974, Emrys Roberts, Chairman of the Corporation, said the then current national economic crisis could hold up the construction of a bypass.
“In 1992, the Welsh Office had said that although the provision of a bypass was not in their current programme they would consider appointing consultants to investigate the need for one. This promise came to nothing as in 1994 the Welsh Office announced that plans for a bypass had been shelved.
“Hopes were raised again in 1999 when the Welsh Office said that work on a bypass might start in 2003. It didn’t. Since then two more consultants’ studies have been undertaken and political pressure has been sustained. The Welsh Assembly Government (which by now had replaced the Welsh Office) announced in January 2007 that work on a Newtown bypass was unlikely to begin until 2010.”
Mr. Pugh is understandably cautious but says it has come to the crunch now when something has to be done, especially as bypasses have been built in neighbouring Welshpool and Llanidloes.
“One wonders just how much has been spent on consultants’ fees over the last sixty years without a single inch of road being built,” he said.
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