AS thousands sweltered in traffic jams in the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District on Bank Holiday Monday, a major row was brewing over Government plans to make huge improvements to the controversial A66 trans-Pennine road from Scotch Corner on the A1 to Cumbria.
For many locals, converting the whole length of the road - statistically one of the most dangerous in Britain - the plan is a godsend. Further south in the Dales, residents in villages on the A65, which is used as a cross-Pennines route by thousands of heavy lorries, have hopes the new A66 will relieve some of the pressure.
But environmentalists reacted with fury, saying that the proposals will cause ever-lasting damage to the Eden Valley, which contains many sites of special scientific interest (SSIs).
The plans were condemned out of hand by Transport 2000, the pressure group which wants the Government to spend less and roads and more on public transport.
Said Director Stephen Joseph: "As world leaders gather in Johannesburg for the Earth Summit, the Government is starting to trash more of Britain's environment.
"The A66 dualling will damage SSIs, including some of international importance, and will also go through the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Mitigation measures will not make up for this intrusion."
The Government claims that dualling is necessary for road safety but a leading road safety expert, Professor Richard Allsop, has already said that proceeding with this scheme now would worsen "an already clear misallocation of resources."
It would take money away from already under-funded programmes of small-scale safety measures such as local traffic calming. The fact that the scheme costs have escalated from £66 million to £141 million in nine months makes this even worse, argues Transport 2000.