When the clerk to a small rural local council elsewhere — one not unlike Llanbedr Community Council — saw the plan of the proposed Llanbedr bypass, her first reaction was, “I suppose they are going to infill”. She had immediately noticed that if the bypass is built, it will cut off quite a large triangle of land between the new embankments on which the will run and the village.
Now everyone knows that the UK has an acute housing shortage. Local authorities are under enormous pressure from central government to find more and more land that new homes can be built on. So once a road scheme encloses land on the edge of an existing community it is quite usual to revise the local plan so that, even if the area is green field land, development can take place in future.
The other morning Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, was interviewed on the BBC Radio4 Today programme. He spoke most enthusiastically about the government’s new found enthusiasm for spending money it does not have on bypasses where there is “congestion in small towns” and “a clamour for a bypass”. He went on to explain that one of the fringe benefits of building these new roads is that:
“In some places we [will] create better opportunities for the housing development that we need for the future”.
Radio 4, Today, 5th July 2017, 1:15:20 in.
Or in other words, bypasses create opportunities for infilling and thereby extending communities. So far as Llanbedr is concerned, that could mean an awful lot of new houses.
The possibility that infilling will be an unintended consequence of building a bypass was mentioned to the community council some time ago. The initial reaction was one of horror, presumably at the prospect of a huge influx of new residents. Later, they dismissed this supposed threat because the land in question is on the River Artro flood plain. However, flood risk does not seem to be stopping similar housing developments elsewhere in the UK.
No one can say for certain that a bypass will lead to a major housing development at Llanbedr, but neither can anyone say that it will definitely not happen. It is important to recognise that building a bypass will alter the whole dynamic of this small rural community, and this is likely to have unintended and unforeseen consequences. Just removing the minor inconvenience of occasional delays at the bridge during the holiday season is only the most obvious consequence.
It is inevitable that existing businesses will loose trade and that there will be increased risk of serious road accidents when all traffic leaving the village has to join the bypass at road junctions. It is also possible that a radical change to the demography of the area, with an influx of new residents that would inevitably impact its culture, is a risk.
Is this scaremongering? Not really, because if the bypass is built, and infilling with new housing takes place, there will be no way of putting the clock back. Everyone should be aware of all the possible consequences, not just the most obvious ones.