Businesses across the troubled stretch of the A59 say North Yorkshire County Council ‘has finally listened’ after unveiling its plan for the road.
Residents and businesses gathered at the Millstones on Skipton Road for a public meeting on Tuesday night, to hear how permanent repairs will be carried out on the A59 at Kex Gill.
An eight week project will begin from Monday, October 8, with the road remaining open for seven weeks to single file traffic while work including construction of a new reinforced wall is carried out. In order for the final stretch of work on the road to be completed, including resurfacing and drainage works, the road will be closed for the final week.
The evening also saw a round-up of the work done by the council so far for it’s long term solution for the road - realignment. It was last closed for over a month earlier this year, following the discovery of a 12 meter long tension crack in the road.
NYCC Cabinet Member for Highways, Councillor Don Mackenzie said: “We are all in this with the positive ambition in mind to reduce the disturbance to your lives and businesses, to look towards getting a permanent diversion in place so we never have to go through this again.”
The presentation also outlined what the potential risks of the plan were, including delays due to winter weather. During a Q & A Robert Crowson of Mackenzies Smokehouse flagged that if this occurred it could hit the key Christmas trading period.
However Phil Jepps, Divisional Manager for principal contractor Ringway, said he was ‘confident of completing on time’, while NYCC officers added it would contact residents and businesses over progress of the work.
Speaking after the meeting Lee Abbott, owner of Fewston Farm Shop and Cafe said: “It is looking quite positive, its seems they have finally listened to us, the road will remain open for most of this and they said they will keep us in the loop with how work is getting on. I think they have done their best to keep everyone happy.”
The permanent repairs are the second phase of work being carried out by the council following the movement underneath the road, with the road re-opening to single file traffic in July after temporary repairs were completed.
During the meeting Mr Abbott asked why work had not been carried out during the summer, with work now set to take place during the winter with the potential for issues to arise. Barrie Mason, NYCC Assistant Director Highways & Transportation however explained this was linked to a decision by NYCC to re-schedule the meeting, which was originally set to take place last Tuesday.
He said: "This is a complex engineering problem. We have worked hard with the contractor and consultants to come up with a way to keep the road open rather than shut and keep on with the work. This is the earliest time we could get on now to do this work, and we have taken this time to come up with a solution which means we can keep the road open."
NYCC has undertaken a number of consultations since last year over how realignment of the road could be carried out, with a proposed route approved by the county council executive earlier this year. A detailed design is currently being developed, while environmental surveys are also currently been carried out.
A business case has been submitted to the Department for Transport to secure funding for the proposal, with feedback expected to be given to NYCC in July. The plan is subject to funding being confirmed, construction could begin in 2020 and take between 12 to 14 months.
Mr Mason said: "We accept as a county council the long ongoing instances of instability on the hillside and the disruption this causes, and the cost associated to put things right, is not sustainable int he long term. We have made a case to the DPT in London and they are very positive for the potential for us to get funding in terms of delivering this scheme."
Responding to Ann Johnson, Parish Councillor for Washburn, who asked what would happen if problems arose while securing planning permission for the re-aligned road and if funding would still be available Mr Johnson said the council was working closely with the DPT.
He said said: "The new road scheme is dependent on getting planning permission and DPT have indicated they would like us to spend the funding as quickly as we can, so we would have to keep in close liaison with DPT if we envisage we were going to have problems getting permission.
"The reassurance I can give is we are working hard to cover our bases inn terms of planning permission, which is why I mentioned earlier about the huge environmental surveys we are carrying out to make sure we take on board all the issues in regards to the environment in the area, we are also in close contact with officials at the DPT on a regular basis in regards to the funding and its availability."
For Howard Barker, Washburn parish councillor and owner of Petties Paws the overall goal for addressing problems on the road is welcome news for businesses.
He said : "In the long run this will put this issue to rest, we will be a lot happier knowing that in the long term things could be more secure. Its always been a delicate road, and people have probably been put off coming down it. So in the long term things can only get better for everyone here."