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Bypass inquiry continues

[Wednesday 22 February 2006]

The public inquiry in to the proposed revocation orders for bypasses around three Dales villages continues today.

As part of its de-trunking process for the A65, the Highways Agency wants to revoke the orders that almost saw bypass schemes for the villages of Gargrave, Hellifield and Long Preston go out to tender in the early 1990's.

The inquiry began yesterday at Gargrave School with the Highways Agency setting out its case.

The case was set out in relation to the Government's policy on transport and its White Paper, entitled 'A new deal for trunk roads in England', the aim of which is to restrict trunk road status to roads of national, rather than local or regional significance.

As the Department of transport has decided that the A65 is not a core trunk road and carries only regional traffic and the Government has decided not to proceed with the bypass schemes, the Agency views it as appropriate to revoke the orders.

In further justification for declaring the A65 a non core trunk road the Highways Agency stated that, in terms of vehicle numbers for trunk roads, the national average is 18,900 vehicles per day, with average A roads carrying 10,900 vehicles every day.

There was disagreement though about the increases in traffic volume over the last decade. The Agency claims a two to three per cent increase from 1994 to 2004, whilst North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) - opposing the revocation orders - is claiming a seven per cent rise over the ten years to 2004.

Under cross-examination, the Highways Agency witness stated that safety considerations could be a justification for a bypass, even if the road concerned was not part of the core trunk road network.

There was also disagreement over the projected cost of any new roads with NYCC claiming that their estimated cost is £18 million for Gargrave and £27 million for Hellifield and Long Preston.

The Highways Agency disputed this and quoted a national formula that puts the cost of the Gargrave bypass at £30 million and the Hellifield and Long Preston bypasses at £60 million.

In presenting their evidence NYCC agreed that the bypasses are unlikely to be built according to current plans, but stressed that single carriageway roads around the villages could be cost effective.

The only supporter of the revocation orders to give evidence yesterday was a resident of Gargrave, stating that any bypass could have an adverse impact upon the village's tourism sector.

The inquiry is expected to conclude today with evidence from Craven District Council and the Long Preston residents Association (LoPRA).

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