Council could shelve major road schemes amid highways review

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LONG-AWAITED road schemes in North Yorkshire – some dating back 40 years – could be permanently shelved as part of a review of major highway projects across the county.

The proposed schemes, each costing more than £5m, include bypasses, relief roads and larger bridges.

They have come under fresh scrutiny as North Yorkshire County Council seeks to make more realistic plans in light of reduced budgets and funding opportunities.

Coun Don Mackenzie, the executive member for transport, said: “If there was plenty of money, we would do every scheme but there’s not an unlimited pot of money.

“We carry out regular reviews of major scheme proposals and, as far as the council is concerned, our main priorities are towards east to west connectivity.”

A report to councillors said three of the key schemes were the re-alignment of the A59 at Kex Gill in the Yorkshire Dales, a relief road for Harrogate, and improvements to the A64 between York and Scarborough – a Highways England scheme.

The county council’s transport, economy and environment scrutiny committee was told that work on the three schemes was on-going and will be put to the Department for Transport to enable the council to bid for funding.

David Bowe, the director of business and environmental services, said: “In addition, the county council has over the past 40 years, developed basic proposals for a wide range of major schemes. They are invariably local bypasses or diversion routes around communities, many of which have strong local support from communities,”

He said the 23 historic schemes under review included bypasses at Northallerton, Monk Fryston, Great Smeaton, Carlton Miniott, Muston, Hinderwell, Long Preston, Shipton-by-Beningborough, Spofforth, Ainderby and Morton, Malton and Norton, and Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe.

They will be reviewed within the context of the council’s Strategic Transport Prospectus, which sets out how it would work with the Government, Transport for the North, and the Northern City Regions to improve transport links for North Yorkshire and share in the economic benefits of the Northern Powerhouse.

Councillors in each of the scheme areas are being invited to give their views on officer assessments before all the information is presented to the council’s executive body in early 2017.

Mr Bowe said the key factors would include the benefit of new schemes to the local economies and major population increases expected due to new housing.

He added: “Those schemes that provide a good value for money assessment and will be retained and may be taken forward to a further development stage. Two options exist for those schemes which do not have a good value for money and will removed completely from the reserve list, or retained on a low priority list.”

Coun Mackenzie said regional and national funding bodies funding wanted to see an economic return on investment in these kind of projects.

“It think that’s very responsible,” he said. “The taxpayer wants us to deliver value for money.”

He said it was also unfair to homeowners living near potential bypass routes to keep schemes that would never materialise on the table when it could be affecting property values.