Dusting off the Sowerby Bridge by-pass plans

At the Holmes Road tunnel are, from the left, Coun Adam Wilkinson, Rod Mellor and Molly Bake, and Coun Dave Draycott.
At the Holmes Road tunnel are, from the left, Coun Adam Wilkinson, Rod Mellor and Molly Bake, and Coun Dave Draycott.
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THE long held dream of building a road to get around Sowerby Bridge is being revived by ward councillors and members of the town’s community forum.

Twenty years ago, a meeting attended by 250 residents was told that relief road was vital to rid the town of noise and pollution, to cut out the endless traffic queues and reverse the town’s economic decline.

The council predicted that road building would begin before the end of 1998 at the latest.

Since then, the volume of traffic and delays has increased, the town has become an official pollution black spot and the by-pass still looks like a pipe dream.

But all that could change if a campaign to attract funding from the Leeds City Region is successful.

Councillor Dave Draycott said a relatively small amount of money from the transport fund would produce enormous benefits for the town.

He and members of the Sowerby Bridge Forum want a railway arch off Station Road to be widened so that two lanes of cars and lorries will be able to enter Holmes Road, drive through Mereclough, past the recycling centre and onto a new road, which is already approved, leading towards Copley and the Lloyds Data Centre on Wakefield Road.

“If Sowerby Bridge is to prosper and attract further development, we need the infrasstructure and that means a by-pass,” said Coun Draycott (Lab).

Ward councillor Adam Wilkinson (Lab) said people had been talking about ways to relive the traffic congestion for years and it will only get worse. “We need to look again at the possibility of creating a relief road if only to reduce the congestion on Wharf Street which is now an Air Quality Management Area because of the pollution caused by exhaust fumes.”

Forum members Molly Bake and Rod Mellor say through traffic is a real problem and when the M62 is closed, it can be a nightmare.

Four possible routes for by-pass costing £5 million were put to Sowerby Bridge residents in 1991 - two starting from the bottom of Tuel Lane, one from the entrance to the Canal Wharf and one from Bolton Brow.
Another, the brainchild of Sowerby Bridge fireman Philip Whittaker and architect Philip Hawdon, was to span the valley on a viaduct. It was an expensive alternative and ahead of its time but it now forms the basis of the suggested Wakefield Road/ Holmes Road route.
The Bolton Brow tragedy in 1993 in which six people were killed by a runaway lorry added to demands for a by-pass, compounded by Government predictions of a 50 per cent increase in traffic by 2002.
The council ordered £440,000 to be spent on designs for a £7 million road in 1994 and in 1995 it went to the top of the council’s transport improvement priorities, although the cost had risen to £8.5 million.
Finally, in December 1996, the scheme was abandoned because of increasing uncertainty about the availability of Government funding for the £9.6 million scheme and it has been gathering dust ever since.