A scrapped Gwynedd bypass project has cost taxpayers nearly £1.7m, new figures have revealed.
Last week saw the Welsh Government pull the plug on the planned £14m road project in Llanbedr following advice from a committee of transport and climate experts.
Having already been granted planning permission last year, the withdrawal of support sparked accusations of “betrayal” by community leaders in the area, with calls for a bypass dating back over 50 years.
But after being pushed by members of the Welsh Conservatives, the Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters MS has now confirmed that the amount already spent on the Gwynedd Council-led project is set to reach £1.67m.
Responding to a written question by Natasha Asghar MS, Lee Waters said, “To date £1.472m has been provided to Gwynedd Council for this scheme.
“We await a further claim from the Council for costs incurred up to the decision not to proceed with the scheme, which we estimate to be around £200k.”
After the revelation, Ms Asghar said, “Motorists were hoping this road would be the answer to their prayers and end traffic jams and long commutes in the area, but sadly Labour ministers have decided to let them carry on suffering.
“I find it astounding and appalling that this huge amount of taxpayer cash has been poured down the drain and there is absolutely nothing to show for it in north Wales.
“It is a double blow for residents and commuters as not only are they not getting a solution to traffic problems in Llanbedr, but now they learn their money has been well and truly wasted.
“Labour ministers must stop using the environment as a shield to shirk off their responsibility to the issues road users are facing and give us clear plans about what they now intend to do as keeping the public in the dark achieves nothing.”
Accentuated by the narrowness of a listed bridge over the river Artro in the centre of the village and the volume of traffic heading towards Mochras (Shell Island) , summer traffic is often at a standstill due to street parking and the number of junctions on to the A496 leading into Llanbedr.
A new bypass, it had been hoped, would reduce traffic through Llanbedr by 90% while improving access to the nearby and economically vital aerospace centre.
The withdrawal of Welsh Government cash saw the leader of Gwynedd Council, Dyfrig Siencyn, accuse ministers of “sacrificing rural Wales on the alter of climate change where the real problem and the answers lie in our urban areas.”
But Mr Waters responded to such criticism by urging Gwynedd Council to consider its own decision to declare a climate emergency in 2019, noting they would hold back £3m for alternative transport projects in the area.
In light of the latest revelation, the minister added, “We are all facing the same climate change emergency. If we are serious about tackling it, we can’t go on building more and more road capacity for private vehicles.
“Rather than spend money building a road and increasing our emissions, we are committed to providing funding for the development and implementation of an alternative package of measures to address the negative impact of traffic in Llanbedr and in other villages on the A496, whilst also encouraging modal shift and reducing CO2 emissions.
“The package can also consider access requirements to the airfield to support associated developments.
“I have asked my officials to work with Gwynedd Council to commission Transport for Wales to develop an alternative package for consideration, in line with the chair’s recommendations.”
Dwyfor Meirionnydd MS, Mabon ap Gwynfor, said: “Not only has the Welsh Government stumped up £1.7million for this much needed by-pass only to let it all go to waste, but other organisations and businesses have spent tens of thousands of pounds drafting tenders and plans for this scheme.
“The Welsh Government allocated the Llanbedr Airport as part of the Enterprise Zone to create jobs and encourage investment in the area. They are now seemingly turning their backs on these ambitions by reneging on building the by-pass.
“By not going ahead, the Welsh government is showing its disregard for the whole Meirionnydd coast which is in great need of infrastructure investment.”
Gwynedd Council has been asked to comment.