I am continuing to receive a large volume of correspondence regarding the unacceptable levels of traffic congestion and air pollution in Chepstow. I would firstly like to reassure constituents that I am completely aware of the situation and will do whatever I can to address it.
There is a great deal of housebuilding going on in Chepstow and the Forest of Dean, which has made an existing problem of rush hour traffic increasingly worse. The solution is a bypass around Chepstow to divert traffic travelling between the Forest of Dean and M48 Severn Bridge junction away from the A48 Hardwick Hill area.
An initial engineering report has already taken place and is available online: https://www.fdean.gov.uk/media/6312/chepstow-transport-study-final-report-p02-dec-2018-mnj.pdf
In order to progress things further, there is a requirement for a second report detailing all options, consulting with members of the public and estimating costs. This is an official document called WelTAG2.
WelTAG2 will cost a significant sum of money, somewhere between £400,000 and £1.2m. The costs will need to be shared between the UK Government, Welsh Government, Monmouthshire County Council and Gloucestershire County Council.
As a local MP, I have been doing everything possible to push this process forward; raising the matter in Parliament with Wales Office ministers and arranging for the then-Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales to meet with the chief executive of Monmouthshire County Council:
I have been told progress towards a bypass would be more likely to advance if it had the support of the Western Gateway Sub-National Transport Body (STB): https://westerngatewaystb.org.uk/
My understanding of the Western Gateway STB concept is that it exists to provide “strategic leadership” when discussing transport infrastructure requirements with government on either side of the England-Wales border. Unfortunately, the Western Gateway STB refused to list Chepstow bypass as one of its priority schemes for the Department for Transport’s Large Local Majors investment funding programme:
I am extremely disappointed by this decision because the problem is being partly fuelled by an increase in housebuilding in Gloucester. I would have hoped that an organisation with close links to Gloucestershire County Council would want to support solutions and I intend to discuss the matter more fully with the Western Gateway STB.
I apologise for being unable to bring immediate good news, although I am hopeful that finance for the WelTAG2 engineering report will be found shortly. This will be a big step forward.
I shall continue to keep everyone updated.