From Ellie: I just wanted to bring you up to date with two bits of really good news on housing and transport! 

First of all, on housing, last week the Cabinet agreed to progress with our plan to build 2500 zero-carbon affordable homes in Herefordshire over the next 10 years. This is a big project, obviously, but we’ve taken a step closer and will soon be commissioning detailed designs for the first site. There couldn’t be a better or more important time to do this. The project will create desperately-needed affordable homes for local people (Herefordshire currently has the highest ratio of housing costs to wages in the West Midlands). The homes will be super energy-efficient, tackling fuel poverty (Herefordshire currently has the worst fuel poverty levels in the West Midlands) and the climate crisis. And building these nets zero carbon houses will create many new jobs at a time when they are desperately needed! Plus, borrowing costs are at historically low levels, and the project will pay for itself through rents and sales, so altogether this is fantastic news for Herefordshire! 

The second bit of great news is that today the Cabinet voted unanimously to stop the Western Bypass and invest instead in MUCH cheaper ‘active travel’ measures and buses which will have the same congestion-reducing effects for a fraction of the cost! The bypass would have cost ~£200m; serious investment in walking and cycling will cost only just over a quarter of that (£57m) and deliver the same congestion reduction effect (14%). We’re also going to invest seriously in electric hopper buses to help people get around the city to work, shop, visit, study etc. We want to encourage people to come INTO our city to help regenerate it – not enable them to bypass it altogether! 

(If you’d like to know more, do have a look at the column I wrote for the Hereford Times this week on transport – see below).

I’m really proud to be part of the Herefordshire Coalition that’s taking these big decisions to make life better for everyone in the county. 

Thank you all for your support!

My Hereford Times column:

At last: real transport solutions that work for people, the environment and the economy!

What do we need from a transport system? I think we’d probably all agree: less congestion, cleaner air, safer roads. We want to get from A to B as easily as possible – for jobs, education, shopping, leisure. And we want to protect our lovely Herefordshire countryside.

Some people like to dramatise transport issues as very polarised, but I think we can always find common ground. And that’s what our Herefordshire Council Coalition is doing. When we came to power last year we promised to review Hereford’s transport strategy to ensure we’ve all got all the facts. And those facts are fascinating.

Only 7% of traffic in the city is through traffic. The vast majority, 93%, is people driving into, out from, or within the city. Building a bypass won’t help the 93%. Instead, we need a real vision for the future.

Everyone knows that if you build more roads, they fill up with more cars. Typically, this means 20% more traffic in the long term. Now, imagine if we built more high-quality cycle paths. They would fill up with bikes, of course! More buses and bus lanes? More of us would travel by bus.

A green transport strategy for our city means proper investment in pavements and cycle paths that are safe and accessible for everyone, and in buses for commuters and school kids that will do more than anything else to ease the rush-hour crush. 

The end result will be less congestion, cleaner air, and safer roads – all the things we agree on! We’ll be able to get around from A to B easily and cheaply. We’ll be healthier, too, if we walk and cycle more. And our economy will thrive, too, if we make our city more ‘liveable’.

We do need new transport infrastructure in Hereford. But the evidence is clear that a bypass is by far the most expensive and damaging option of all – terrible value for money (~£200 million!) with a very high environmental cost too.

Instead, for a fraction of the price, we can build green transport infrastructure that will improve everyone’s quality of life, help tackle the climate and ecological emergency, and support economic regeneration in the city. A genuine win-win-win solution!