Stockport’s beautiful Lower Goyt and Poise Brook Valleys (pictured) and the green spaces of Offerton and Hazel Grove face a long-running threat from the proposed A6-M60 Bypass between Hazel Grove and Bredbury.
Stockport Council’s attempt to get funding from the Government for its plans failed in 2016, 2018 and 2019. But that is not the end of the road. Further funding opportunities could occur in the next few years, though the Bypass’s price tag of £500 million is always going to be a big ask.
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Supporters of the A6-M60 Bypass say that loss of green space is necessary in order to reduce traffic congestion and pollution. They ignore the fact that road building generates more traffic overall. The A6-M60 Bypass would create new traffic problems locally and increase traffic over the wider area.
We need both green space and unpolluted roads. Before the completion of the A6-Airport Road (A555) in 2018, traffic in Stockport was decreasing slightly, apart from on the motorways. Let’s hope that the Covid-19 lockdowns cement this trend by encouraging a shift towards more home working.
We are also edging closer to the Government’s 2030 date for all new cars to be electric, in order to combat climate change. As the proportion of electric cars on the roads increases towards the end of this decade, pollution should reduce – as long as petrol and diesel traffic does not grow in the mean time. Any new road schemes not yet ongoing will not be finished until the late 2020s, so arguing that the A6-M60 Bypass is needed to deal with pollution hot spots makes no sense at all.
Even with a gradual switch to electric cars, continued road building would still be bad for climate change. There’s a carbon cost to concreting over green belt and encouraging greater use of cars, whether petrol or electric, and particularly if those cars are travelling to Manchester Airport. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has himself said traffic will need to reduce. The Government’s current plans to spend £29 billion on road building over five years are facing a legal challenge for failing to take into account climate change.
Stockport Council continues to back the A6-M60 Bypass in its draft transport strategy SEMMMS Refresh. The Labour group which leads the Council has become disenchanted with the Bypass plan. However, the Council as a whole has a majority for the Bypass, with Lib Dems prominently in favour.
The Council leaders’ hands are also tied by its agreement with Cheshire East on transport policies, including the Bypass. Cheshire East is planning 1,500 homes on green belt next to the A555 in Handforth, with serious consequences for traffic. It is wrong that these homes should be constructed in the expectation that the A6-M60 Bypass will be built and yet more green belt destroyed. As long as the Bypass remains on the to-do list, it will provide cover for housing schemes in Derbyshire and Chershire, which are built without transport connections.
There are many reasons why the A6-M60 Bypass is a bad idea:
Airport Road shambles: The Bypass would extend the A555 Airport Road completed in October 2018. The A555 has increased congestion around its eastern end on the A6 and Macclesfield Road and produced many accidents. It has been closed three times by flooding. Construction was chaotic and late, causing costs to rise. Do we want more of this?
Induced traffic: New roads don’t just take up existing traffic; they generate extra traffic, which is why roads aimed to ease congestion end up producing more jams – like the M60! The Bypass would be the same.
High Lane: Congestion on the A6 in High Lane and Disley was aggravated by the A555. The A6-M60 Bypass will make it even more jammed.
Blocked exits: Existing congestion on the M60 eastbound at Bredbury and at the Airport end of the A555 is bad and would be made worse by the Bypass. The A555 would become busier and would need to be widened in places.
Offerton snarl-up: Three Bypass junctions controlled by traffic lights would be close together in Offerton and Hazel Grove, drawing traffic and congestion through local streets to the new road. In total the Bypass would have seven junctions with traffic signals on the carriageways.
Climate change: The Bypass would be bad for climate change because it would take more cars to the Airport; it would increase traffic and car dependency; it would destroy carbon absorbing greenery and trees; and its construction would have a heavy carbon footprint.
Flooding: The Bypass would cross the flood plains of Poise Brook (including flood-prone areas of Bosden farm Estate and Hazel Grove) and streams running into the Lower Goyt. It would collect water that would no longer be able to soak away into the earth.
Disappearing nature: At a time when many plant, insect and animal species are facing extinction we need to preserve our woods, valleys and fields. The Bypass would go through nine Sites of Biological Importance, designated to protect natural habitats.
Stale ideas from SEMMMS Refresh
The Bypass remains stubbornly at the heart of the Council’s new transport strategy SEMMMS Refresh, which has never been officially signed off.
Including the Bypass in SEMMMS Refresh makes a nonsense of the transport strategy. The Bypass would generate extra traffic and create new problems of congestion at the massive cost of £500 million, which is money better spent on public transport.
Stockport needs alternatives to using the car – not more dependency on cars.
In November 2017 we presented a 7,000-signature petition opposing the Bypass. Our current petition calling on the Council to drop the Bypass from its SEMMMS Refresh is at https://tinyurl.com/TreesNotConcrete
(SEMMMS is short for “South East Manchester Multi Modal Study/Strategy”.)