WORK on a new road to ease Stafford's traffic congestion could begin as early as next April.
But the revived scheme for a western access route is facing renewed opposition.
The £16.1 million road aims to cut congestion around the railway station and the Chell Road area by linking the A518 Newport Road at Castlefields with the A34 at Foregate Street.
The county council's preferred route goes from Castlefields through the Saint Gobain industrial site to the north of Doxey Road. It then crosses the railway near new housing and crosses the long-stay car park behind Sainsbury's, with a new bridge over the River Sow leading to the retail park at Foregate Street.
But environmental campaigners said the route would lead to more countryside being swallowed up by housing developments following in the wake of the new road, as well as affecting the Doxey Marshes nature reserve.
Green borough councillor Tom Harris branded the scheme a "disaster".
Councillor Harris, who represents Forebridge ward and was a co-founder of the campaign group Stop The Access Road, set up to challenge the original plans six years ago, said the scheme was no solution for Stafford's worst traffic blackspots.
"This is terrible news for Staffordians," he said. "The majority of traffic congestion in the town is not between the west and north - where this road will go - but between the east and south, specifically the Lichfield and Wolverhampton roads.
"While money is being spent to build this unwanted road I think it's a fairly safe bet that no new money will be found to tackle problems elsewhere".
He also rejected claims that the new road would be good for employment and traffic flow.
"Adding half a mile of road in order to build houses that are likely to have two or more cars each on their driveways, is not going to do anything to reduce congestion - quite the opposite.
"And while this money is being spent to create new problems, the existing traffic black spots are being totally ignored. This road will be bad for business and even worse for residents."
James MacColl, of the pressure group the Campaign for Better Transport, said "motoring-orientated decision-making" was putting "discredited" road-building schemes ahead of joined-up, accessible travel choices.
But Staffordshire County Council leader Philip Atkins said the government's announcement of funding for the road was a "massive boost".
"The route will aid growth in an expanding county town," he said.
And Stafford Borough Council leader Mike Heenan said the road was "fantastic news".
He said that as well as easing congestion, the road was key to enabling 7,000 new homes and 90 areas of employment land to be delivered.
The county council's preferred "Green Route" for the road leads from Castlefields through the Saint Gobain works to Doxey Road, which would be upgraded to form a stage of the new access road. From Timberfields Drive, the new road follows a route to the north of the existing Doxey Road, to a new roundabout a little to the north of the present one at the entrance to Sainsbury's car park.
The road then continues on a low viaduct above the River Sow flood plain towards Foregate Street