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Abandoned again: the despairing villages of the A65
Friday, 13 December, 2002

Our countryside columnist John Sheard takes exception to the CPRE's policy of opposing all road developments.

THE most terrifying example of bad driving I have ever seen in almost 50 years did not take place on the M1 or even in the centre of a major city but just outside the Maypole pub in Long Preston, a tiny village which has the misfortune to stand on the busiest road in the Yorkshire Dales.

Traffic Jam
It was a bank holiday and I was sat in a jam of cars, caravans, tractors and trailers when two motorcyclists travelling south overtook the entire line of stalled traffic at a speed of at least 60 mph.

Ahead, a young mother was trying to cross the road with a toddler on one arm and a baby in the other. The bikers had no chance of stopping, so they just swept past her, one in front of her, one behind.

When they had gone, she just stood there, shaking and crying in shock, until someone she knew jumped into the road and led her to the safety of the pavement.

Now for me, and many others who make their livings in the Dales, the A65 is at one time both a curse and a blessing. It takes me to many of the places I need to go and it drives me mad in the summer months when it is jammed with tourists, long-distant trucks on their way to or from Scotland and industrial West Yorkshire, and the relative few of we locals going about our lawful business.

That lady and her children are alive today because of simple good luck. Many others die every year on the A65 - motor cyclists being top of the death list - and the poor residents of villages like Gargrave, Hellifield and Long Preston live year round with danger, noise and exhaust fumes from traffic which is merely passing through.

I thought of that woman and her kiddies this week when the Council for the Protection of Rural England savaged Government plans for a massive expansion plans for Britain's motorways and major trunk roads (see News, December 12).

For when Labour came to power five years ago, one of John Prescott's first acts was to scrap plans for bypasses for the above villages even though work was on the point of starting after at least 25 years of blathering (and some plans were being discussed 25 years before that).

Prescott did so, he said, because he was determined to make more people use public transport. If he had not done so in five years, he boasted, he would have failed. Well, the five years is up and, by announcing the new road plans, the Government have acknowledged that failure.

Trouble is, there was no mention in the resurrected programme of the A65, where many people I know are on the point of despair. In other parts of the Dales, around Hawes and other tourist honeypots, people are despairing too: what's the point of trying to force people onto public transport when public transport in many areas simply does not exist?

It is not often I fall out with the CPRE but, its policy on this issue seems to be anti-road at any price. And this, I'm afraid, smacks of "townyism", a view held by many urban folk that the countryside is a playground designed for their pleasure rather than a working environment where people live and have to earn a crust.

I would be the last person on earth to welcome a motorway driven through the heart of the Dales. But a few miles of bypass by the benefit of local folk - and the safety of their children - is surely not too much to ask?

Your views:

  • Monday 29 May 2006

    I can remember reading about the incident with the mum and her children. I ride a big motorcycle but please don't put me or my friends in the same mould as those bikers.

    You find that these type of bikers are frowned upon within the biking community, they probably drive their cars the same way.

    The road is such a beautiful road to ride with the Lakes just a stones throw away. I do agree with you though that it does get very busy and congested, especially on bank holidays and sunny days. Most bikers know that it is not worth going over the speed limit because it is so heavily policed, especially in the villages.

    I do think that the road is its own worst enemy as far as the commercial side goes just because of its beauty. It will not help, due to the fact that there is no alternative route between Skipton and Kirkby Lonsdale where the road meets the M6.

    I bet it made a big difference the people around the Shap area on the A6 when they opened the M6 upto Carlisle. I think ring roads around the towns and some of the villages would help the traffic to flow and ease congestion and also make village life more pleseant and safer.

    I can remember when Settle used to be so busy and at times dangerous untill they built the the road around it.

    Paul Bradshaw - Brierfield

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