A press release from the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust:

For decades, various plans for a Hereford bypass have been proposed with the aim of easing congestion in Hereford City. 

In 2021, following local council elections, the new administration halted plans for the last iteration – a Western Relief Road. 

The new Hereford City Masterplan1, the draft of which was published this spring (2023) now returns to plans for an eastern route once more.

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust is wholly opposed to this proposition. The route being proposed cuts through Lower Lugg Meadows nature reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and ecologically important floodplain meadow. SSSI status is the greatest protection a habitat can have in the UK and should mean it is preserved in perpetuity. 

This habitat is also included in Herefordshire’s Biodiversity Action Plan as one that conservation groups have identified as particularly under threat in the county and in need to preservation. 

The nature reserve is home to many rare species of plants and animal including the snake’s head fritillary and a small population of breeding curlew. 

As the Masterplan itself says “the winding River Lugg, together with its ecologically rich floodplain, marks the eastern boundary of Hereford.” (P. 49) The same plan notes the negative impact that dog walkers are having on the curlew population (p.51) but building a new road through the curlew’s last successful breeding territory in Herefordshire will have devastating consequences. 

We may see this iconic bird become extinct in Herefordshire within just a few years should plans go ahead.

The proposition for a new eastern river crossing is completely at odds with the Climate and Ecological Emergency announced by Herefordshire Council. 

The Trust believes this is not the time to be building new roads but supports the development of infrastructure which encourages people to walk and cycle more. 

The Masterplan states that only 7% of traffic in the city is ‘through traffic’ and that “73% of journeys are less than 5km compared with a national average of 40%.” (p.27) An eastern bypass will therefore have little impact on reducing congestion within the city but will cause irrevocable damage to one of the most important sites for nature in the county.

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust’s CEO Jamie Audsley says:

“The Lugg Meadows are one of very few remaining floodplain meadows in the UK which are sensitively managed to benefit people and wildlife and it is imperative that they remain protected. 

“This is an incredibly rare habitat, home to the last remaining breeding curlew in Herefordshire, incredibly rich in wildflowers and supporting a whole host of wildlife. 

“The meadows lie underwater for a large part of each year and, by storing water in the landscape, provides natural flood management – a wonderful natural service preventing flooding downstream.  

“In the summer, as the water subsides, the meadows are well-used green space for people in Hereford to visit and connect with nature. Otters and kingfishers are regularly sighted along the river and the meadows are filled with the buzz of insects and the flutter of butterflies. 

“To be considering an Eastern River crossing that would impact even a part of this incredible meadow is ridiculous.”