By-passes 'fail to cut traffic'

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Three controversial bypass schemes have not reduced nearby traffic to the levels promised, a study by green groups said today.

And traffic on the bypasses is growing much faster than the Government forecast, according to the study commissioned by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Countryside Agency.

The three roads surveyed were the the A27 Polegate bypass near Eastbourne in East Sussex, the A34 Newbury bypass in Berkshire and the M65 Blackburn Southern bypass in Lancashire.

The study found traffic on these roads had now reached or exceeded the levels forecast for the year 2010.

And extra traffic - over and above the gradual increase happening everywhere - had flowed on to local roads as a result of the schemes, undermining the claim that the bypasses would reduce congestion.

The study concluded that for all three schemes there was above-average traffic growth, increased development pressures on undeveloped land nearby and significant damage to landscapes.

The two green groups said these important issues were not being picked up by the Highways Agency's own post-construction analysis for new road schemes.

The study concluded that the Government was failing to learn the lessons which could lead to better transport policies and decisions.

At Newbury and Polegate the new bypasses did reduce town-centre traffic. But the reductions were not as much as originally forecast, while traffic had increased on the bypassed roads and on the new bypasses, the study said.

It added that town-centre shops in Polegate suffering from losses in trade had actually been campaigning for signs to be installed on the bypass directing traffic back into town.

Newbury has also seen rapid traffic growth, with most of the freed-up space on the old, by-passed road being taken by new traffic attracted by new development.

The researchers found the three schemes caused serious and permanent damage to rural landscapes, including an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers said: "New roads damage the countryside and the wider environment. They blight favourite views, and their noise can carry for miles. We must learn from past mistakes, but so far as road building is concerned this study shows we're continuing to repeat them."

Graham Garbutt, chief executive of the Countryside Agency, said: "We need to be sure that the effects of building new roads over the countryside are fully understood, learning from schemes already built and using the lessons."