PLANS for the £87 million Shrewsbury North West Relief Road have today been submitted to Shropshire Council planners.

It has been 30 years in the making, but project bosses say vehicles could at last be making the journey along the new seven-mile stretch of the A53 by the end of 2023.

The council says the road will reduce traffic on some town centre routes by up to 25 per cent, improving air quality and allowing for pedestrianisation schemes to be brought in.

It also claims the road will bring a huge boost to the county economy and open up new housing and employment land in the Oxon area.

With a potential water retention scheme dropped from the project, the proposed viaduct over over the River Severn at Shelton will, at 668 metres, be the biggest bridge ever constructed in the county – and members of the public are being asked to put forward names for it.

Critics have questioned how the authority can align the project with its environmental aspirations, but the council says the countryside the road will pass through will be left in a better condition than it is found in, with plans to enhance ecological features and boost biodiversity.

Council leader Peter Nutting said: “This project started I think over 30 years ago in the old Shropshire County Council days and has been a long-term ambition to try and resolve some of the traffic issues around Shrewsbury.

“We do believe that the NWRR will help greatly to reduce through traffic through the town. It will reduce congestion, particularly along Smithfield Road and the Mount.

“It’s an opportunity now the world is changing, people want more cycle routes, more pedestrian-easy routes and I think the key to doing that within the loop of the river is with the NWRR.

“I think there are major improvements available when this is built for pedestrianisation and cycle routes through the town.”

Councillor Nutting said the road would benefit villagers living to the north and west of Shrewsbury by reducing journey times and preventing their roads being used as rat-runs.

He added that the more direct route for those living north of Shrewsbury to get to the hospital could prove “life saving”.

Cllr Nutting said more reliable journey times – which would also be seen on the existing A5 bypass – would improve connectivity across the region, calling it a “project for the whole of the West Midlands”.

Cllr Nutting added: “The West Midlands Combined Authority is looking at this project.

“They do believe it opens up all sorts of opportunities for Birmingham to look west. There are lots and lots of businesses in the Black Country who are struggling to find space and I believe lots of them will welcome the opportunity to come to Shropshire.”

Cllr Steve Davenport, portfolio holder for highways, said: “A big part of this is the reduction in traffic in the old town centre of Shrewsbury. We have got to clean this up.”

He said the road would support the transport and movement aspirations of the Big Town Plan and a proposed overhaul of the park and ride service which is currently being reviewed.

The project will be funded by a £54.4m government grant and £4.2 million from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership. The council will be liable for the remaining £28.5 million, some of which will come from money collected from housing developers through section 106 agreements and the community infrastructure levy (CIL).

Cllr Nutting said funding would “not be an issue”, as the project is expected to open up 54 to 56 acres of “prime development land” to be sold for around £500,000 an acre.

The project will also deliver a “social value return” by ensuring at least half of the cost will go back into the county economy through local suppliers and apprenticeships.

Members of the public will get to comment on the planning application from March 1 when it will be listed on the council’s planning portal.

The planning application will now be decided by the council’s planning department, and it is anticipated that a full business case will be presented and contractor appointed by the end of the year.

The council aims to have the road open by December 2023 and work completed by March 2024.