Minister says A64 upgrade proposal in Yorkshire is ‘on a knife-edge’

Community leaders in one of England’s largest and least densely populated parliamentary constituencies have been told calls to dual the A64 to Malton as part of a first major upgrade for the trunk road are “a pipe dream”.

Thirsk and Malton MP and Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake after the Westminster politician told North Yorkshire councillors representing divisions from Ampleforth, near Helmsley, to Filey them he was expecting a decision over a £300m proposal to upgrade the trunk road “in the coming weeks.

Weeks after an expected announcement in the Budget failed to materialise, Mr Hollinrake told councillors, who have been campaigning for a major upgrade to the A64 for decades, it was by no means certain the Government would approve the bid to dual the A64 from Hopgrove to Barton Le Willows.

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He told a meeting of North Yorkshire Council’s Thirsk and Malton constitiency committee the bid was “on a knife-edge”, but National Highways was now looking beyond factors such as population density.

The A64 junction with the science campus at Sand Hutton Picture: GoogleThe A64 junction with the science campus at Sand Hutton Picture: Google
The A64 junction with the science campus at Sand Hutton Picture: Google

He said: “The cost-benefit ratio of that is pretty low, but we are making a case to the Transport Minister, Transport Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer of the importance of that road. I think the cost-benefit ratio is so low because half the place it serves is sea.”

Mr Hollinrake said while the Government used to just look at “economic value”, such as the value of jobs that would be created, the current Government had put in “a social context” to where money was spent, taking into consideration priorities such as Levelling Up.

He said: “I think to get anything done in this world you have got to make a compelling case for something, a coalition of people supporting and then you have got to be really persistent.”

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However, councillors said they feared even if it was approved the upgrade would do little to resolve social and economic issues burdening businesses and residents in the area.

Hovingham and Sheriff Hutton councillor Caroline Goodrick said told Mr Hollinrake while there are some really strong businesses between York and Scarborough, without the development of the A64 they would not grow.

She added: “My concern is the dualling of the A1237, the northern ring road around York, will deliver traffic to the Hopgrove roundabout much quicker than it does now. That’s going to cause snarl-ups on that stretch. That’s not good for our tourist economy, our business economy and it’s devastating for our residents having to use that road to get around.”

Filey councillor Sam Cross said the situation had become “desperate” in the town, due to increasing congestion on the A64. He added: “It is stopping businesses developing on the coast.”

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Ampleforth and Amotherby councillor Steve Mason said some residents believed all the proposed scheme would do is shift traffic to Whitwell, a notorious traffic black spot, and the road needed to be dualled at least to Malton.

Mr Hollinrake responded saying the improvements would need to be undertaken “progressively” due to the high costs involved.

He said dualling the road to Malton in the first phase was a “pipe dream” which would cost “somewhere north of £500m”, and involve huge challenges such as passing through the Howardian Hills National Landscape and an ancient woodland.

He added: “We have got to be able to have a plan, cost a plan and deliver on it. Just having pipe dreams, just saying we’re going to do this… where’s the money coming from? We have got to be realistic.

“It’s not to say we can never get to Malton with the A64. That’s not a pipe dream. To do it now… is a pipe dream.”

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