Change of direction on 20mph and new roads will boost economy, say business leaders

Business leaders say a new “common sense approach” to the default 20 mph speed limit and road schemes will boost the economy in North East Wales.

According to Wrexham Business Professionals, the plan unveiled by Ken Skates, the Welsh Government’s new Cabinet Secretary for North Wales and Transport was potentially a “game changer”.

Mr Skates, who is also the Senedd Member for Clwyd South, outlined his vision at a meeting of the group that’s made up of successful businesses and skilled professionals working together to promote regional prosperity and shine a light on the enterprise and expertise that exists in the region.

The process of reverting some roads from the 20 mph limit will begin in September and Mr Skates has urged people to contact local councils to tell them where they think this should happen.

He also revealed his commitment to resurrect a plan to restructure the log jammed A494 and A55 dual carriageways taking traffic to and from the M56 along the Flintshire corridor.

Wrexham Business Professionals committee member Ian Edwards, who chaired the event, said: “This is a significant step forward for the growth prospects of the North Wales economy.

“We welcome the change of direction which Ken Skates’s appointment brings. Since becoming an MS he has proven to be a determined and hard worker on behalf of his constituents here in North Wales and in Wales as a whole.

“His appointment has been a breath of fresh air and we are impressed that he is taking a measured and pragmatic approach to the 20mph dilemma.

“It has had a serious, direct impact on the livelihoods of numerous small businesses, particularly those whose profit margins and business reputations rely on being able to get from A to B within set timeframes.

“We’re also extremely pleased to hear that key highways improvements in Wrexham and Flintshire areas could soon be back on the table.

“We especially appreciate Mr Skates having chosen our meeting to confirm that the long talked about upgrade of the Flintshire Corridor at the gateway to North Wales is back on the agenda.

“In addition, he’s committed to finding a desperately needed solution for the Aston Hill bottleneck at Deeside.

“It is not the first time Mr Skates has spoken at a Wrexham Business Professionals event and whenever he has there has always been a sense that he genuinely is listening to our views.

“It is a real sign of hope that we may finally see some much needed progress on the roads and transport front in North Wales.”

Mr Edward said poor road links and ineffective public transport services around Wrexham and Flintshire were at the forefront of any entrepreneur’s mind when considering expanding existing operations or setting up new businesses in the area.

He said: “The current gridlock of the A55 and A494 and its links to the M56 is hindering the entire region’s economic growth prospects.

“We cannot stress how important an issue this is to the business world and the creation of new jobs for the local economy.”

Mr Skates told the meeting he accepted that in some areas the lower limit was simply not working and he would be consulting with local authorities and all sections of the affected communities to look at restoring a 30mph limit where there was a consensus in favour of it.

But he insists that the 20mph policy has been a huge success in other areas, making roads safer and protecting lives, especially near schools, hospitals and in residential estates.

He said: “The truth is that this has worked. In many areas 20mph is the safest and most sensible option. To simply reinstate 30mph across the board would be a travesty in these situations. That is not what I am advocating.

“But we do need to revise and refine the policy, which is something we always said would be done after a period of time had passed and we had been able to assess how well it was working. We need to make revisions with humility and compassion and accept that on some roads the 20mph limit is not proving to be appropriate.”

On the Flintshire corridor and the creation of a more efficient trunk roads network in North Wales he said there was a lot of work to be done, though progress could be slowed by the transport department’s ever tightening budget.

Mr Skates had been critical of the decision to scrap the so-called Red Route £300 million scheme which would have seen the construction of a new eight-mile dual carriageway, linking the A55 at Northop with the A494 and A550 north of Deeside Parkway Junction via the Flintshire Bridge.

An all-Wales review of planned road schemes saw it shelved along with other North Wales highways improvements which had long been in the pipeline including a third Menai Crossing to Anglesey.

Mr Skates said the A55 at Deeside was outdated and a formidable air pollution hazard for nearby communities, adding: “It was never designed to take the enormous modern day traffic volumes it now handles.”

He promised Wrexham Business Professionals that he is determined a new scheme will be drawn up and implemented but it would be done in the most sustainable way possible, making use of the latest roads construction technology and using design features to minimise air pollution in the surrounding landscape.”

The other guest speaker at the meeting was Professor Dylan Jones-Evans who said the global celebrity status of Wrexham AFC has given the city a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure unprecedented economic growth.

He said the impact of the club’s superstar owners, Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds, had been hugely positive but that local leaders must now invest significantly in home-grown businesses and incoming innovators to make the most of Wrexham’s  higher profile.

Louise Harper, who is also a committee member of Wrexham Business Professionals, was grateful to both the speakers for their contributions.

She said: “There were huge positives in what both Ken Skate and Dylan Jones-Evans told us and it all bodes well as we look forward to a more prosperous future in this part of Wales.”

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