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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Projects within £120M road improvement programme to be impacted as A629 plans put on hold in Kirklees

Major plans for the A629 are to be put on hold indefinitely due to pressures of inflation, the economic climate and the overstretching of current funding. Two individual projects within the £120M road improvement programme will be impacted.

One of which, known as ‘Phase 4’ is the A629’s proposed walking and cycling scheme. Projected to cost £26M, this development would see a travel corridor formed between Huddersfield and Halifax granting improved access for cyclists and pedestrians. The initial Phase 4 proposal received opposition from residents and Councillors alike as Occupation Road would adopt a one-way system. Concerns were expressed relating to the negative impact this would have on nearby streets in terms of accessibility and traffic volume. In a letter to local residents from Kirklees Council dated 3 November, it has been revealed that there are plans to ensure a two-way system will remain in place when the project resumes.

The other scheme being affected is referred to as ‘Phase 5.’ This sees 126 mature trees cut down to make way for the widening of New North Road, Edgerton Road, and Blacker Road, and aims to reduce congestion and speed up journey times on the corridor between Ainley Top roundabout and Huddersfield ring road.

Cllr Andrew Cooper

This controversial £13.3M proposal received backlash from protestors and last year, Councillor Andrew Cooper (Greens, Newsome) stated that through the removal of trees, “we would lose far more than we would gain.”

In a statement from 3 November this year, the Councillor said, “I am so pleased that the trees at Blacker Road junction have been saved and that the road widening scheme has been shelved. It is down to the dedicated campaign by local people who recognise the importance of this beautiful and irreplaceable entrance to our town. Campaigners have spoken at Council meetings, held demonstrations outside the Town Hall and at the junction itself. I was pleased to support them in their efforts and glad they paid off.”

Cllr Cahal Burke

Councillor Cahal Burke (Lindley, Lib Dems), also commented on the recent developments saying, “I am pleased that the two projects in the Lindley ward will be paused by WYCA at the Finance, Resources and Corporate Committee on 10th November.”

“Myself and Cllr. Anthony Smith are absolutely delighted that the council have listened to us and residents about our concerns. We started the petition to prevent Occupation Road being made one way, we helped organise campaign meetings, we asked questions and raised concerns at council meetings, engaged constructively with Project Officers and campaigned with all residents and all groups to get a satisfactory outcome.

“We would like to thank all residents and groups who campaigned so hard with us, together we achieved this outcome. Finally our thanks goes to Project Officers who listened to our concerns and have changed the proposals.

“When funding streams become available we look forward to engaging constructively on the new proposals with Officers and residents. This outcome will come as a huge relief to many residents who live and use these roads.”

The £120M A629 improvements programme is funded through the West Yorkshire-plus Transport Fund and is being delivered by Kirklees Council in partnership with Calderdale Council and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA).

It was decided that parts of the programme would be halted following an inflation review by the WYCA which identified potential funding issues. Here it was found that a number of factors were at play on top of inflation, making it financially unsustainable for all projects to go ahead as planned, and costs needing to be cut. Brexit, Covid and supply chain issues are amongst the reasons given. Reportedly, there is also a problem of “overprogramming” meaning that too many schemes are on the go without the money to fund them. The West Yorkshire Transport Fund currently has overprogramming of £151M with the potential to increase to £215M should current issues not be addressed.

The final decision on Phases 4 and 5 will be made at WYCA’s Finance, Resources, and Corporate Committee meeting on 10 November. As of yet, no date has been given for the expected continuation of the plans.

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