Despite objections from the Green Party and Green Councillors the City Council Executive agreed to proceed to the next stage of York Outer Ring Road by developing a planning application.
This is what Tom Franklin, Chair of York Greens, said to the Council:
There is a climate emergency, as the Council acknowledged in a near unanimous vote in 2019. Since then, as the International Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) has shown, things are even worse than we understood them to be then, action to achieve net carbon zero is even more urgent and there is less time to achieve it.
The City of York Council has pledged for the City, not just the Council, to be carbon neutral by 2030. If we are to achieve that then we need to be reducing the major causes of emissions in the City. Transport is the largest carbon emitting sector in the region at 31%. There is no way we can achieve our carbon targets unless we dramatically reduce the volume of petrol and diesel vehicles on the roads, including the embodied carbon in the road construction and extra vehicles that will use the road.
The City Council should not be doing anything that will increase traffic. But, we know from virtually every single road scheme, if you build a road, or widen a road you increase traffic on it and on the surrounding roads, which will include more traffic coming into the city centre. For that reason, we simply must not dual the ring road.
The report is woefully inadequate when it comes to the carbon emissions associated with the ring road. It does not discuss the emissions required in building the road, but it will be far more than the 28,000 tons that York Community Woodland may sequester. And then there are the increased emissions from induced demand, which are not mentioned either.
Norfolk County Council have just pulled their road developments because the plan did not include sufficient decarbonisation information. You should follow that lead and withdraw these plans until you are provided with full details of the carbon emission related to construction and induced demand.
I would love to be able to stop here because as councillors you appreciate the vital importance of reducing the city’s carbon emissions and reject the proposal before you. However, all parties on the council, other than the Greens, have supported dualling the ring road for decades and it will therefore probably go ahead.
Whilst we do acknowledge, that as a result of the consultation, improvements to provision for active travel have been made to the design for the ring road. There are still areas where further work is needed for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
The provision for active travel need to be linked in to a longer term strategy within LTP4 to create a coherent network of high quality routes suitable for anyone.
Most importantly, If the ring road is to be widened then we must ensure that it is used to genuinely divert traffic away from the city centre. The report mentions the “Smarter Transport Evolution Programme”, and increasing modal share of active transport. BUT it includes no details of how these relate to the ring road, or any numbers on how these will be achieved. Without a proper plan, produced before the ring road proceeds these are little more than pious words.
If the ring road does indeed go through to a planning application it will at the very least need to demonstrate how dualling the ring road will genuinely help support the Council’s objective of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and that will need to include a very robust new Local Transport Plan (LTP4). For the sake of the city and future generations we really must face up to the fact that we cannot tackle climate change and keep on building more roads.
Unless you can demonstrate that dualling the ring road will reduce carbon emissions, then for the sake of the City and future generations who live here I hope that you will reject this unnecessary and damaging scheme.