Kex Gill: Half-a-million pound to offset 'irreversible' damage of new road between Harrogate and Skipton
More than half-a-million pound is to be spent on tree planting and other environmental projects to offset the "irreversible" damage of a new major road linking Harrogate and Skipton.
The £60m carriageway is to be built as a replacement for the landslide-prone Kex Gill section of the A59 which has a history of causing unsafe driving conditions and delayed journeys, as well as high maintenance costs.
Construction could begin by autumn and is subject to an agreement with the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which is to be given just over £590,000 for projects to protect and enhance the area over the next 30 years.
Iain Mann, manager of Nidderdale AONB, said the area's management board initially opposed the road realignment project but later "reluctantly" accepted it was the "only viable option" to overcome the problem of landslides.
He said: "The Nidderdale AONB joint advisory committee has always acknowledged the importance of finding a sustainable, long-term solution."It is clear that the construction of the new road will cause a permanent and irreversible impact on the AONB. Some impacts can be mitigated within the project boundary and others will be addressed through the off-site mitigation fund.
"We have worked very constructively with the county council on the development of the off-site mitigation fund and we have agreed in principle to manage the delivery of this fund.
"It will be used to pay for a significant amount of biodiversity and landscape enhancements in the surrounding area, such as the creation of new woodland, improving riparian habitats, enhancing moorland and planting new hedges."
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National conservation bodies The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Natural England also raised concerns over the project, as well as minerals company Sibelco which asked for a government review of the plans but was refused.
Officials at North Yorkshire County Council - which is overseeing the project - previously said the impact on the landscape and wildlife was acknowledged, but extensive planning had not found a better way to re-route the road which is a key east-west link.
Where it runs through Blubberhouses Moor, the road has been hit by regular landslides – most recently in 2018 – which have resulted in closures and diversions through other North Yorkshire towns and villages.There have been five major landslides at Kex Gill since 2001, with one incident closing the road for eight weeks.
The county council has already agreed to provide about £4m towards the £60m realignment project, with the rest being funded by the Department for Transport (DfT).
Announcing the funds in January, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “I know that residents have been frustrated by frequent road closures at Kex Gill caused by landslips in the area.
"Our funding will go a long way towards addressing those problems, making journeys more reliable for people travelling between Harrogate and Skipton."
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter