RESIDENTS, councillors and the local Member of the Senedd have voiced their disappointment that a bypass in the Cynon Valley won’t be going ahead at the moment.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s plans for the Cynon Gateway North are to create a single carriageway from a new roundabout at Croesbychan on the A465 to a new roundabout off the A4059 (the Aberdare bypass).
But an announcement on Tuesday, February 14, by the Welsh Government included the Cynon Gateway North in a list of “local authority” schemes which won’t be funded at the moment but that will be considered in future rounds of transport grant funding if they meet the new tests for road building.
There was a freeze on new developments announced in June, 2021, and now the results of a wide-ranging roads review by a panel of experts have been published.
The latest announcement by deputy minister Lee Waters in the Senedd affects more than 50 road-building projects around Wales.
The arguments for the Cynon Gateway North raised at the planning committee in March, 2022, were around the volume of traffic in the villages of Llwydcoed and Penywaun, pollution, large vehicles travelling through and the safety of children and elderly people crossing the road.
Those against it cited environmental concerns in terms of noise and pollution, the impact on wildlife, the loss of farming land and ancient woodland and the impact on the Special Landscape Area and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The Cynon Gateway North scheme is about 2.6km north-west of Aberdare and lies between the communities of Llwydcoed to the east and Penywaun to the west.
The line of the proposed scheme was agreed with the Welsh Government to ensure it aligns with the proposed dualling of the A465.
The scheme planned to connect the A4059 east of Penywaun with an unnamed road leading off the A465 Heads of the Valleys Road to the north.
A proposed new roundabout would be installed south of Croesbychan which would connect to the new link to the ‘Cynon Gateway’.
The council’s planning committee gave it its backing in March, 2022, but a section 77 call-in request was made by Welsh Government which meant that committee could discuss and debate the application, but it couldn’t approve it until the directive was no longer in force.
The directive was made “to enable further consideration to be given to whether or not the application should be referred to the Welsh Ministers for their determination.”
Llwydcoed resident and member of the Llwydcoed Community Action Group Sian Lucas said: “It is a great disappointment.”
She said the local MS would not give up hope and that when they held a small protest recently a lot of people were very sympathetic.
She said there had been closures related to the Heads of the Valley dualling and accidents that had occurred in the area.
Speaking about the traffic issues she said: “I’ve lived here for 49 years and have never seen anything like this. It is very disappointing.”
She added: “It is a village which I love living in but is becoming busy and worrying” from a safety point of view.
She said they would “hold on to the hope” that there might be a bypass and that they’ve got “plenty of patience.”
Fellow residents Dee Singleton, who is the treasurer of the group, Shirley Fleming and Gerard Singleton, who is the chairman of the group, also spoke of their disappointment.
Dee Singleton said: “We’ve got huge amounts of traffic coming down here. It simply isn’t safe.”
She said that amount of traffic “is really not acceptable” and Gerard Singleton added that the bypass would not be increasing the amount of emissions in an area where a lot of people live.
Dee Singleton said: “They say they want people to come to Wales and enjoy themselves then they make it very difficult for people to travel.
Shirley Fleming raised concern for children’s safety given the speed and size of the vehicles that travelled through the village.
She said: “The biggest worry is that one day there is going to be a big accident here.”
Dee Singleton said that it seemed “incredible” that lorries couldn’t be diverted and Shirley Fleming pointed out that there used to be a weight limit on the road.
Dee Singleton said the elderly couldn’t cross the road and that people could spend 10 minutes waiting to cross it.
Shirley Fleming said that if there was a 20mph limit, they were going to have a string of vehicles backed up while Dee Singleton said that calming or other measures made it “impossible to bother coming through” for drivers.
Gerard Singleton said it was about the “pressure of traffic and people using it as a rat run” and Dee Singleton added that it was “never ending” with “huge” lorries coming through.
A statement from Vikki Howells MS, who represents the Cynon Valley in the Senedd, and local Labour councillors Louisa Addiscott, Ann Crimmings, Gareth Jones and Sharon Rees said: “We are deeply disappointed by the decision of the deputy minister not to approve the Cynon Gateway North scheme at this time.
“We stand with residents of Llwydcoed, Penywaun and neighbouring areas who have campaigned so passionately side by side with us.
“The decision is a set back but we do not intend to take this ‘no’ as an answer that will be set in stone forever.
“We will continue to press the case for the Gateway with colleagues at all levels of government, and explore further options to progress this vital infrastructure link in the future.”
Speaking in the Senedd, Lee Waters MS, the deputy minister for climate change, said: “When we published the Wales Transport Strategy two years ago, we committed to start upon a llwybr newydd – a new path.
“The publication of this Roads Review, along with the National Transport Delivery Plan, and our new Roads Policy Statement, represents a major step forward on that journey.
“Let me be very clear at the outset, we will still invest in roads. In fact, we are building new roads as I speak – but we are raising the bar for where new roads are the right response to transport problems.
“We are also investing in real alternatives, including investment in rail, bus, walking and cycling projects.
“Of course, doing that in an age of austerity is very challenging. Not only are we not getting our share of HS2 investment, but the UK Government is pushing many bus services over a cliff edge, as well as slashing our capital investment budgets.
“Even if we’d wanted to keep progressing all the road schemes in the pipeline we just do not have the money to do so. Our capital budget will be 8% lower next year in real terms as a result of the UK Government’s failure to invest in infrastructure.
“With fewer resources it becomes even more important to prioritise and the Roads Review helps us to do that
He added: “Our approach for the last 70 years is not working.
“As the review points out the by-pass that was demanded to relieve congestion often ends up leading to extra traffic, which in time brings further demands for extra lanes, wider junctions and more roads.
“Round and round we go, emitting more and more carbon as we do it and we will not get to Net Zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over.
“When Julie James and I took up our new roles, we made clear that in this decade Wales has to make greater cuts in emissions than we have in the whole of the last three decades combined.
“Greater cuts in the next ten years than the whole of the last 30 – that’s what the science says we need to do if we are to future-proof Wales.
“The UN General Secretary has warned that unless we act decisively now we face a ‘climate catastrophe’.
“If we are to declare a Climate and Nature Emergency, legislate to protect the Well-being of Future Generations, and put into law a requirement to reach NetZero by 2050 – we simply have to be prepared to follow through.”