The third phase of a major £120 million highway improvement scheme has been green-lighted by Calderdale councillors.
Including building a new road bridge over the Calder and Hebble Navigation, the scheme aims to further improve traffic flow on the main route linking Halifax and Huddersfield and increase non-private vehicle options for those using the road, which has faced congestion issues for years.
Proposed works to the A629 Huddersfield Road and B6112 Stainland Road corridor and the A6026 Wakefield Road junction will include the new bridge, a new roundabout on the B6112, a new link road between the A629 and B6112 and associated works taking in earthworks, realignment and widening of carriageways, new signal controlled junctions, footways, cycle ways, bus stops, retaining walls, drainage work and landscaping.
Calderdale Council’s Planning Committee agreed it was mindful to permit the application subject to relevant legal agreements being obtained.
Although welcoming the plan, councillors raised some concerns about the efficacy of cycle routes and loss of some ancient woodland.
Other concerns raised by the public include air quality and loss of habitat for wildlife.
Objector Reid Anderson had written to the council that as the proposals involved building a “massive” road bridge, roundabout and dual carriageway he believed this would do the precise opposite of the council’s Transport Strategy aim to reduce highway capacity for the private car as it was based on traffic flows being expected to increase.
Mr Anderson added that it would do nothing to reduce serious levels of air pollution at Salterhebble, which had been subject to Air Quality Management Zone status for over a decade.
But councillors heard from officers that an aim of all transport investment was to bring about growth for Calderdale and this scheme would do so while reducing congestion and improving journey times, allowing introduction of an express bus service between Halifax and Huddersfield.
It had been refined from six options which had been considered and it was the optimum scheme, said a council officer speaking in support of the plans.
“This is one of the worst hot spots in Calderdale, with 40 minute delays going beyond Elland.
“This is the key to unlocking access into Halifax,” he said.
And councillors believe the works will ultimately bring benefits including to health.
Coun Paul Bellenger (Lib Dem, Greetland and Stainland) said he welcomed the scheme which through better infrastructure would improve traffic flow on the A629 and ease congestion from Stainland in his ward.
“Also to include our health in this so people can cycle and walk into Calderdale, it is a fantastic scheme. I can’t wait for it to start – and finish,” he said.
Coun David Kirton (Con, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) agreed. He said it would result in a “major improvement to traffic coming into Halifax, get rid of some eyesores and eventually will improve traffic flow – that has been a problem for many, many years.”
Although agreeing with the recommendation to be mindful to permit, Coun Colin Hutchinson (Lab, Skircoat) raised several issues which were concerning him.
He wanted to see more clarity about the cycleway infrastructure if it was to be a true route along which not just leisure riders but commuters would travel between Huddersfield and Halifax by bicycle, reducing car use.
“At the moment it seems little bits of cycle lane have been added on as a kind of afterthought rather than being taken as a key part of the scheme,” he said.
The officer pledged: “We will have an end-to-end cycle network between the two towns.”
Coun Hutchinson also had concerns about an area of ancient woodland at Elland Bottom which will be lost to road widening and asked if the necessary land could be taken from the other side of the road instead.
But officers said although that side of the road was not necessarily designated ancient woodland it had a lot of mature trees and still posed an issue.
While work was being undertaken Coun Hutchinson had concerns about traffic impact on areas in his ward, including Skircoat Green and Godley Lane, and wanted to know what mitigation measures would be put in place. Officers said due consideration would be given.
Coun Hutchinson said some wetland would be lost and the new bridge would block a good wildlife corridor. He wanted to know what actions would be taken to keep the area wildlife rich.
Members were told the new bridge was designed to encourage bats to roost beneath it and they could provide details about other features if required.
Multi-modal improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users are a major part of the scheme with Smart signal technology used to reduce congestion, improving bus journey times and mitigating potential impacts, say environmental health officers.
Proposals target the current “pinch point” of the current Calder and Hebble junction, which includes the A629, B6112 and A6026.
They include extinguishing the existing link between the A629 and the current mini-roundabout at Stainland Road/Wakefield Road and development of the new bridge.
Planning officers agreed the proposals could be supported subject to conditions and if a S106 agreement is put in place to compensate for the loss of some of the ancient woodland, a concern lodged by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
A five-year woodland improvement and management plan is recommended there, say officers.