Manchester Airport Roads

Transport North: Caught in a Trilemna ~ 1 There is an imbalance between North and South in the funding of transport – where longrun lack of investment and inequality of provision result in revenue shortfall and need for subsidy ~ 2 But when investment proposals do come forward – largely from decisions taken in London, but also locally – they are usually for schemes that will actually worsen sustainability and carbon, whilst still failing to ‘close the gap’ ~ 3 Because the decision making, policy, scheme assessment, planning and consultation frameworks are now so inadequate that projects can no longer be effectively tested. ~ Our featured campaigns illustrate aspects of this Trilemna.

SEMMMS (South East Manchester MultiModal Study) is the acronym for a network of roads of which the east-west A6 to Manchester Airport Road is just one.  The next stage of these – just gone to consultation – is the north-south Poynton Relief Road (formerly the Poynton Bypass) and the A523 Improvement to the south of it.  That will then leave the A6 Stockport North-South Bypass (the biggest of the SEMMMS roads) to come forward.

Manchester’s climate change strategy A Certain Future, in which the Council is a full partner, requires a demanding 41% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 (2005 baseline). ACF has the commendable honesty to admit that currents efforts are insufficient to meet that target: ‘must try harder’. But what the strategy curiously fails to include are all the emissions generated by flights from Manchester Airport in which the same Council (and other GM authorities) are leading players, and it’s here that transport and development policy are going in a completely different and contradictory direction. Expansion!

… of aviation: flights forecast to increase by 60,000 p.a, and consequently emissions as well – another million tonnes CO2 p.a by 2030 (DfT); … of development activity: with the construction ofManchester Airport City’, an £800 million development to create on-site logistics, manufacturing, office and leisure facilities in a newly created enterprise zone; … into the Green Belt: which has already been grabbed in the developing Local Plan; … and necessarily of road traffic (with their emissions as well), and car parking, and therefore and finally …

… More roads! For the last few years CPRE and North West Transport Roundtable, assisted by Campaign for Better Transport, have been exposing, analysing and challenging a remorsely extending octopus of new roads and development.

The following account is based on the CBT press releases of 4th February 2013 and 17th March 2014. A NWTAR briefing from November 2012 introduces the issue including the historical background here; then there are 3 comprehensive reports by CPRE/CBT: A Folly in the Making January 2013; More reasons why the A6 Manchester Airport SEMMMS Road should not be commissioned July 2013; and A Reasoned Objection December 2013; and finally a ‘think piece’ by Keith Buchan, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Transport Research Unit who has acted as a consultant to the campaignersTransport Strategy in South Manchester and East Cheshire February 2014. There’s also a recent Ecologist article here (February 2014).

Lead campaigner on this issue is Lillian Burns of CPRE and NWTAR. For further information contact her here.   The North West Transport Activists Roundtable website is here.

“Campaigners raise alarm over 30-mile ‘strategic road by stealth’ through Manchester and Cheshire Green Belts and countryside”

March 2014 Plans for roads to the South and East of Manchester would link up to encircle a vast area of Green Belt and countryside in Stockport and North Cheshire and fill it with traffic and development, local and national campaigners have warned.

A new report by Keith Buchan of the Metropolitan Transport Research Unit says a strategic assessment of the plans is needed – the roads are not being put forward in a clear and cohesive programme, but instead are being funded and planned piecemeal by a range of different authorities. It concludes: “… it has become clear that a number of road schemes are being brought forward in isolation from one another which have a potential major strategic impact and potentially threaten the development of sustainable transport policies.”

Now the Campaign for Better Transport and the North West Transport Roundtable, are calling for a full assessment of the cumulative impact of the schemes. Taken together the new traffic, pollution, ecological damage, and associated housing and business developments would cause huge damage to the area and campaigners want to see new studies to look at alternative ways of providing transport, including local public transport and new strategic rail lines.

Campaigners are particularly concerned that the three schemes in this area found in the new Cheshire East Council Local Plan (CEC LP), when combined with those from local authorities in Manchester (the SEMMMS roads) and the Highways Agency, would end up creating a new 30 mile dual carriageway link – a ‘strategic road by stealth’ – running all the way from the M60 motorway in Stockport to M6 junction 17 at Sandbach in the South.

[details of the individual road schemes and map here]

Keith Buchan says: “Nowhere is the cumulative impact of these road plans being debated, but there is no doubt that the plans – taken together – would be likely to have a major impact across a wide area. The increased traffic that would be caused, the air pollution and climate emissions created, and the impact on Green Belt, agricultural land, the Peak District National Park and important sites like Jodrell Bank, all need to be looked at and better value alternatives considered in a strategic way.”

Kim Barrett of campaign group PAULA, which is opposed to the SEMMMS A6-Manchester Airport Relief Road (A6-MARR) that would plough through Green Belt and ancient woodland between Manchester Airport and Stockport and increase pollution in areas where air pollution is already over legal limits, says:

“The fact that we have mobilised so many residents to object to this appalling scheme has been instrumental in the decision to set up a public inquiry. The plan to push a polluting, traffic-generating dual carriageway through our area, in order to facilitate massive expansion at Manchester Airport, is just one of many schemes, the impact of which must be considered together. Rather than having to fight each one in turn, far better would be a debate on whether local people want to see their area transformed by an ever-growing road network, or would prefer the money to be spent on improved cycling provision and public transport.”

February 2013 Problems exposed by the first report included:
– Widespread use of inaccurate and out-of-date information to support economic and environmental forecasts
– The business case fails to follow numerous planning and environmental requirements
– Claims of huge economic benefits have no credible evidence behind them

Sian Berry, Roads Campaigner from Campaign for Better Transport said:

“The councils behind this proposal have completely failed to make a case for spending nearly £300m of public money on their new road. Our analysis reveals that the figures they’re using are over a decade old, and based on forecasts of traffic growth that has never materialised. They ignore huge changes in Manchester’s public transport picture in recent years, and now HS2 raises even more questions about the wisdom of promoting car journeys in the area. The report clearly show there is no evidence this expensive road will benefit the local economy, but plenty to show it will damage the local environment and make pollution worse. By using obsolete data and failing to consider non-road options, the recent consultation isn’t fit for purpose. If we want to improve transport in the area, we need to go back to first principles and start again.”

Lillian Burns adds (June 2014): “Despite numerous environmental NGOs having written to the National Planning Casework Unit asking for the A6 to Manchester Airport Relief Road (A6 MARR) to be called in for a public inquiry, the DCLG announced last week that it would not be.”

The above text prepared by Anthony Rae