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There are worries about the new road in Cornwall designed to ease traffic congestion, as it has resulted in the removal of numerous trees.
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There are worries about the new road in Cornwall designed to ease traffic congestion, as it has resulted in the removal of numerous trees.

As vehicles slowly make their way along the A30 in Cornwall, known as the county’s infamous main road, the frustrated driver in John Betjeman’s poem, Meditation On The A30, expresses their sentiment perfectly: “I cannot continue moving at such a slow pace!”

During the summer season, a common frustration arises as tourists, haulers, tractors, and locals vie for room on the roads while heading towards popular coastal destinations like Perranporth and St Ives. However, this may soon change.

A project worth £330 million to improve roads is almost finished, as National Highways constructs an 8.7-mile section of two-lane highway between Carland Cross and Chiverton. This new road will run alongside the current A30 and is expected to boost the economy of the area. However, there are concerns about its impact on the environment during a time of global warming.

Traffic on a new section of the A30 dual-carriageway

Nick Simmonds-Screech, the project director at National Highways, explains that this particular stretch of road has been a major hindrance for many years as it is the only single-lane section between Birmingham and Camborne. The goal of the project is to significantly decrease travel time and improve overall safety by eliminating the notorious Chiverton roundabout, which is known as the most dangerous spot for accidents in the county.

According to him, the improvement plan, which was given £20m from the European Regional Development Fund but is primarily funded by the central government, is considered a “legacy project”. Projections indicate that it has the potential to increase the local economy by approximately £750m within a span of 60 years, with a significant impact on the tourism industry.

According to Josh Taylor, the general manager of Surf Bay Holidays, the implementation of this plan will provide access to Cornwall for visitors.

“The construction process of the past few years has been quite dreadful, but once it is completed, it will be truly remarkable,” he states. “Traveling to this location will become less of a burden and tourists will have an easier time reaching popular destinations such as the Eden Project, Land’s End, and the Minack Theatre. I anticipate a positive influence in the upcoming years, as people spread the word about the convenience and pleasure of vacationing in Cornwall.”

Malcolm Bell, the executive chairman of Visit Cornwall, concurs. He states, “The annual value of the Cornish tourism economy is £2 billion, so even a 1% improvement would be significant.” He adds, “In the tourism industry, we understand that what matters most to people is not the distance of their journey, but rather the reliability. We should be applauding enhanced connectivity.”

Holiday-makers enjoying hot weather at Perranporth beach in the summer of 2020.

Unfortunately, not everyone is rejoicing. Peter Mewton, who runs an organic farm, is one of numerous locals who have been forced to sell their land. He has had to give up four hectares (equivalent to 10 acres), which amounts to one-tenth of his farm. He says this has caused significant distress.

According to him, this is not a project for building, but rather for destroying. He believes that the unnecessary removal of many fully grown trees and the damage to the soil and its microorganisms is extremely concerning. This may sound personal, but it has greatly impacted him emotionally and spiritually. He takes great pride in his farm, and their actions feel like a personal affront.

“I have been eagerly anticipating the construction of a new dual carriageway for quite some time, and although I reluctantly acknowledge the need for some upgrades, I wonder why they couldn’t simply expand the current A30 instead.”

Peter Mewton overlooking what used to be his farmland.

Lucy Trinder, a friend of Mewton, formed a group called These Fields Have Names in response to the revelation that several fields on Mewton’s farm have significant historical names like Jose’s Meadow and Shop Meadow.

“There are stories and memories with every field that go back generations, you can’t just eradicate them,” she says. “We’re faced with climate collapse and societal collapse. We should stop road building and invest in public transport instead. If you build more roads, you just encourage more traffic.”

Expressing a differing opinion, Dave Roberts, who lives in the area, believes that the changes are great. He explains that during the summer months, there is usually heavy traffic and pollution in the area for 10 hours a day, causing environmental damage. However, with the new traffic flow, there will be less emissions from cars and in the future, most cars will be electric within the next decade.

Mark Overend, a resident of Marazanvose whose property has risen in value despite being close to the new road.

Mark Overend, a resident in Marazanvose, is also content despite the development being close to his home. “We bought our house in 1991 knowing there were plans to redevelop the A30 but not knowing where it would end up,” he says.

The construction of a new road is taking place approximately 50 meters from our house. However, it has been dug down so that it is not visible. We have been informed that our property has increased in value by £50,000 due to the roadworks. Our main concern is whether the council will approve a decrease in speed on the existing A30 to control local traffic.

Traditional ‘Cornish hedge’ construction alongside the road, using a method which dates back to the neolithic period. The hedges should boost biodiversity.

The construction has left deep scars on the landscape. According to National Highways, approximately 6.72 hectares (16.6 acres) of trees have been cut down, but they are also planting 11.18 hectares (27.6 acres) of new trees. Simmonds-Screech takes pride in implementing various measures to protect the environment, including a unique “green bridge” that will allow animals to safely cross the road – one of only three in the UK. Additionally, tunnels specially designed for animals such as deer and beavers have been built. In other areas, waste from local clay mining has been used as construction material.

Mewton considers this to be simply “greenwashing,” but Simmonds-Screech argues that their biodiversity net gain is currently at 20%, and has the potential to increase due to the construction of traditional Cornish hedgerows, which are beneficial for local wildlife.

Nick Simmonds-Screech, A30 project director at National Highways.

The dual carriageway was originally planned to be completed this winter, but it will now not be fully operational until at least March 2024. In the meantime, drivers will have to continue driving at a slow pace.

“When we began, there was a notable worldwide occurrence [the pandemic] and recently we have experienced severe storms and an earthquake,” states Simmonds-Screech. “As we undertake a complex infrastructure project, it is understandable that there may be some temporary discomfort in exchange for substantial long-term benefits.”

Source: theguardian.com