Action to realign the landslip-prone A59 at Kex Gill has received a major boost with the announcement of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) pledge of up to £56m to build the vital new road.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the funding to finance the £60m project today (30 January). North Yorkshire County Council will meet the remainder of the cost of the scheme.
The stretch of road between Harrogate and Skipton is an important east-west link not only within North Yorkshire, but also into West Yorkshire, Lancashire and Humber ports.
Where it runs through Blubberhouses Moor, the A59 is subject to regular landslips, which can result in the road having to close, most recently in 2018. In addition to safety issues, those closures lead to disruption and congestion locally as well as in other parts of the county and West Yorkshire. Further landslips remain a risk, so the County Council submitted proposals to the DfT for a permanent solution, which involved realigning the route to the other side of the valley.
The Government’s announcement has been welcomed by county councillors.
County Council leader Cllr Carl Les said: “We whole-heartedly welcome this announcement. The confirmation of funding is an important milestone towards bringing this much-needed project to fruition.
“The decision demonstrates the Government’s confidence in the County Council as a dependable partner. I’d like to thank our local MPs, Julian Smith and Andrew Jones, for their unfailing support of our bid.”
Cllr Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access, added: “The A59 is a vital east-west connection and a continuing priority for the county council. It is essential for the prosperity of businesses within North Yorkshire and the wider region that this route is safe, reliable and resilient. The current road, with its history of landslips and resultant closures, cannot guarantee those things, so we urgently need this realignment. Residents, businesses and visitors will welcome this announcement.”
Cllr Stanley Lumley, Member for Pateley Bridge division, said: “This is fantastic news! This scheme has been much anticipated and longed for in my community. I can’t think of another project that has united everyone. The new road will greatly enhance journey safety and reliability. This decision will be very welcomed by locals and visitors over this vitally important cross-country road.”
Julian Smith, MP for Skipton and Ripon, said: “It is excellent news that the Government has pledged up to £56 million for the realignment of the A59 at Kex Gill. This permanent solution to this essential part of the highways network is particularly pleasing given the regular closures due to landslips and other safety issues, which has caused so much disruption and congestion over several years. I look forward to work getting started.”
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said: “This is a critical part of a major cross-Pennine route and as such is important to people who live in the Harrogate and Knaresborough area as well as many other communities. It is important, therefore, to make sure the route is safe and future-proofed against the danger of landslips and subsidence. That is why I have been keen to support the scheme and help secure the funding that makes it possible.”
Earlier this year, the County Council’s planning committee resolved unanimously to support the planning application for the realigned route. However, that decision is subject to the outcome of a third party request to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to call in the application for his consideration. The Secretary of State’s decision is awaited.