Sheffield does not need new dual carriageway, says columnist Graham Wroe
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It is part of a £1.5 billion scheme to revamp the Sheaf Valley area of the city centre. City planners have had the gall to proclaim that this will help meet our climate targets!
Although the aims for pedestrianised streets and better public transport to the front of the station are laudable, to say that a new road will reduce emissions is laughable. The carbon footprint of the building plans will be humongous.
The construction industry accounts for an incredible 36% of worldwide energy usage, and 40% of our CO2 emissions.
Swapping the tram tracks for dual carriageway behind the station and vice versa in front of the station will be massively expensive in terms of money, carbon emissions and disruption to the public, but will give no real improvement to the transport system.
Demolishing the relatively new Cross Turner Street car park, only to rebuild it at Granville Square, is wasteful not only in money but in the carbon already embodied in the building.
Any big transport plan should encourage drivers to opt for less polluting means of transport, be it tram, bus, train, bike or walking. Only reducing traffic will lead to fewer emissions which needs a carrot and stick approach.
The carrot should be looking at expanding the tram and rail systems, reopening old stations like Heeley and Stocksbridge, and expanding the tram network to where people want to travel, such as the hospitals and the commuter belt, bringing the transport system under Council control and subsidising fares. Only then will people start to leave their car at home.
The stick would be introducing road pricing, to discourage driving in polluted areas like the city centre at peak times. The Council are discussing their Clean Air Zone, but they are only proposing charging taxis and buses, not the cars which make up the majority of the traffic.
Sheffield should also consider a workplace parking levy that has worked very successfully in Nottingham.
Residents in Park Hill and Norfolk Park will be faced with the pollution and noise from the new road. Sheffield Station is one of the most polluted places in the country, especially for nitrogen dioxide as the diesel fumes from the trains and taxis combine with the road traffic.
NO2 is responsible for increasing lung problems, asthma, cancer and stillbirths. Moving the road may move some of this pollution away from the front of the station, but it will be closer to the residents of Park Hill and Norfolk Park. A sensible solution would stop the pollution, not move it from one place to another.
Covid has dramatically changed our city. The aftermath of the illness is leaving many with respiratory problems. Covid has, however, had some positive effects.
Businesses have found that many of their workers can work from home, and do so very productively. Why then are the Council proposing building even more new office blocks?
The green space at Park Square roundabout for instance, where I recently watched a kestrel, will be filled with office blocks between 10 and 14 storeys tall. Where is the demand for these offices?
The new road will cut deep into Sheaf Valley Park, presumably taking out many of the trees that have been planted in recent years. It will ruin the Amphitheatre, as the road will be so close to it that audiences will no longer be able to hear the performers.
Now the survival of theatres is seriously threatened, this outdoor performing space should be greatly valued. Open-air performances are far safer than in the theatres.
The scheme is being proposed to accommodate the hugely destructive HS2 project. Only this week HS2 destroyed a 300-year-old oak tree at Hunningham. The tree wasn’t even in the path of the track, it was felled to make way for a service road. Throughout the length of the route, tree protectors are currently camped out to try to save nature, but they are meeting strong and sometimes extremely dangerous force from security, ensuring the destruction continues. HS2 is the most expensive and environmentally destructive infrastructure project in UK history.
The project is set to destroy 108 ancient woodlands and almost 700 wildlife sites. As well as costing the UK taxpayer well over £200 billion, the high-speed rail project is causing extensive and irreversible damage to the environment and will be a vast new source of carbon emissions for at least the next 120 years. The money would be far better spent on improving local transport, making it sensible for commuters to leave their cars at home. Don’t let HS2 ruin Sheaf Valley Park.
If you are opposed to the dual carriageway please sign the petition here: http://bit.ly/stopringroad
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