A £31m scheme to re-route a section of a key Trans-Pennine route away from an area which is increasingly being hit by landslips is on course to be completed in three years.
A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s executive heard the project to move the A59 away from Kex Gill, near Blubberhouses, “can’t be done soon enough” as instability had led to the major route being repeatedly closed.
Councillor Patrick Mulligan said the importance of the A59 to the county’s economy had been highlighted by landslips, such as those in May and January 2016.
He said: “When the A59 is closed it closes the east-west connectivity for a lot of Craven residents. It is a huge disincentive to travel to places like Harrogate, which has a big impact on their economy as well.”
It is understood closures of the A59 have a significant effect on other routes in the region, as it is the only major Trans-Pennine road between the A66 at Scotch Corner and the M62 south of Leeds.
The meeting was told residents had shown overwhelming support for the project, which will see 5.4km of new road built to the north of the existing A59.
Before the most recent landslip, it had been estimated the council spent about £1.6m on remediation and repair works at Kex Gill over the last decade.
Ahead of members approving a preferred route for the new section of road, the meeting heard the likelihood of future landslips made it essential to press ahead with the scheme.
Following the completion of environmental studies, it is hoped a planning application for the scheme will be submitted by autumn next year.
Councillor Andrew Lee, the authority’s economic development boss, told members the land beneath the current A59 at Kex Gill featured “a very complex array of landslips” which would be cost-prohibitive and take too long to remedy.
He said: “The only solution to keep this road open and safe is to realign the carriageway.”
Cllr Lee said developing the new route had been challenging due to the environment surrounding Kex Gill, sites of environmental importance and European directives.
He said: “We have a three-year window to get the funding from Government to implement this scheme so we don’t want any problems with delays. We think the route we have set out is the best and will provide a long-term solution for the A59.”