The government-owned company charged with operating and maintaining motorways and major A-roads has been urged to give greater consideration to the impact of housing and commercial developments on highways.
Councillors serving communities from across North Yorkshire have told National Highways action is urgently needed to remedy gridlock and safety issues on roads including the A66 and A1(M), the A64 to the east and the M62 in the south.
A meeting of North Yorkshire Council’s transport, economy and environment scrutiny committee heard various members voice frustration over the lack of progress over decades on major road upgrades in the county.
After underlining that it was up to the Government to select which major schemes to prioritise, a National Highways officer was told the upgrade of Scotch Corner interchange was needed “sooner rather than later” following a series of major developments being approved beside the junction.
Councillor Stephen Watson said queues of traffic regularly backed down the junction’s A1(M) slip roads, adding: “That junction barely copes as it is.”
Camblesforth councillor Mike Jordan warned the agency plans to build a power station and extract pulverised fuel ash on the site of a former colliery would put extra pressure on junction 34 of the M62.
Other elected members highlighted how the hotly-anticipated A64 upgrade had seen many false dawns over 40 years and others claim the failiure to make progress had seen residents failed.
Councillors added how they were powerless to stop developments alongside the trunk road after being given the thumbs up by National Highways, even though the A64 is already at full capacity.
Councillor Caroline Goodrick told the National Highways officer: “We have a duty, you have a duty, as a highways authority to protect the travelling public, and I don’t see that happening.”
The agency’s officer said the company looked “very carefully” at planning applications, but it did not want to discourage economic growth and job creation.
She said the agency had to make comments as individual planning applications were lodged, and even if they were granted, there was no guarantee when or if a developer would start building.
However, the meeting heard National Highways had the power to stop developments due to their impact on the trunk road network.
Nevertheless, the agency told the committee numerous factors, such as the volume of accidents and the number of vehicles, were used to assess the costs and benefits of schemes.
The debate follows community leaders expressing dismay in March after Transport Secretary Mark Harper suggested the scheme to make the A64, the road with the worst serious accident and fatality record in the North of England, into a dual carriageway would not start before 2030.
The committee was told every major scheme had its cost-benefit ratio scutinised and North Yorkshire’s schemes had often not overcome competition from other areas of the country, in terms of assessed benefits, as they were more heavliy populated.
The National Highways officer suggested the chances of major road upgrades in North Yorkshire would be boosted by having an elected mayor to advocate directly with ministers from next year.
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