Economic strategy’s references to 'cursed' M6 and 'death trap' smart motorways questioned
Calls have been made to remove a reference to the M6’s smart motorway section from a document promoting Stafford’s economic ambitions after the road schemes were branded a “death trap”.
The M6 near Stafford has also been described as “cursed” by a councillor due to the frequency of congestion and delays along the local stretch, which lead many motorists to drive the county town to avoid being held up.
The borough’s connection to three junctions of the M6 is highlighted in a new economic growth strategy, which sets out the Stafford Growth, Regeneration and Infrastructure Partnership’s ambitions to boost the area’s prosperity in the years leading up to 2025.
The partnership involves authorities and organisations including Stafford Borough Council, Staffordshire County Council, Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, Stafford Town Centre Partnership and Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Earlier this month Stafford Borough Council’s cabinet approved the document for adoption.
Speaking at this month’s cabinet meeting Councillor Frances Beatty, cabinet member for economic development and planning, said: “This economic growth strategy is probably one of the most exciting documents we have brought forward in the last few years.
“It will be the blueprint of future development in the borough and it is also a lead strategy on which a lot of other strategies will hang, such as the climate change strategy.”
But on Tuesday the council’s Economic Development and Planning Scrutiny Committee, which examined the draft document page by page, questioned the benefits of the M6 due to be highlighted in the final document.
In recent weeks Britain’s smart motorway schemes – which include sections of the M6 – have been branded a “death trap” by MPs in a report.
Work is currently taking place to extend the M6 smart motorway scheme south of Stafford up to Junction 15, near Stoke on Trent, which will enable the hard shoulder to be used as an extra driving lane. But there are concerns for the safety of motorists if their vehicle breaks down in a smart motorway area.
Councillor Andy Cooper said: “We are connected to three M6 junctions and every night on the radio we hear of some hold-up between junctions 14 and 16 and everything comes through Stafford. It is a curse being connected to that part of the M6.
“Do we know why that stretch of the M6 is cursed?
Councillor Gillian Pardesi said: “Looking at the smart motorway (reference) I’m not sure if it’s a good idea because there is research they have turned out to be death traps.”
Council officer Michelle Smith responded: “I think that was in the draft before the recent information that came to light about smart motorways. We will review that.
“It is really difficult because we are trying to say to people who are looking to invest in Stafford we have that great connectivity. In reality there are some issues that come with that but what we need to make clear is it’s not somewhere difficult to come to – it’s accessible.”
Councillor Jack Kemp said: “If you lived in Stafford when it opened in 1965 the new motorway they built was a godsend. But everybody has a different opinion of it now.”
A Highways England spokeswoman said: “The Department for Transport is considering a range of evidence during their stocktake. We expect the results to be published shortly and to provide the most up to date assessment of the safety of smart motorways. We are committed to implementing any new recommendations as part of our ongoing work to make our roads even safer.”
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