York Press Column – Two years on from the funding confirmation for the dualling York Outer Ring Road its important to not lose sight of why this project is so important
October 4, 2021
It is coming up to two years since I received confirmation from the Department for Transport that they had approved just over £25 million worth of funding for the dualling of the eastern stretch of the A1237 between Rawcliffe and Hopgrove.
Two years on and with the council preparing to submit a planning application to kickstart the development phase it is worth reflecting why this remains a vital project for the future of our city.
Since becoming an MP in 2010 I have placed on record a number of times that I believe the inadequacy of the current road infrastructure is one of the biggest barriers to economic growth and prosperity facing York today.
The worst stretch of the A1237 spans from Poppleton to Hopgrove, with pinch-points at each of the roundabouts responsible for causing current congestion and delays. At peak times movement grinds to a total halt along most stretches, and traffic is slow throughout the day. The geographical spread of my constituency means that I spend a considerable amount of time driving from one side of the patch to the other and I can attest to the fact that driving via York’s city centre is often quicker than travelling a short distance on the A1237.
Speaking to members of York’s business community throughout my time as a Member of Parliament, it has been made clear to me that York’s poor transport infrastructure makes travelling across the city time consuming, inefficient and expensive. Without sufficient upgrades York risked being left behind and unable to attract the level of inward investment of which it is capable.
York is a beautiful city; steeped in history and with unique architecture. This is unequivocally desirable but can produce particular transport challenges. A fully functional ring road is essential to alleviate congestion in the city centre whilst preserving the character of our ancient city.
City of York Council’s Local Plan, if approved, will see over 13,000 new homes built in York by 2033. Whilst we can debate the suitability of individual sites, we can agree on the urgency to provide much needed housing for York residents. We must recognise however that this will place even greater pressures on the A1237. Significant sites in Haxby and to the north of Clifton Moor are earmarked for development, both of which will contribute to the number of vehicles needing to use the A1237 on a regular basis.
Delivering a dualled A1237 must be one of York’s key priorities if it is to continue as a successful city and an attractive place to do business. I have campaigned for this relentlessly since before my election in 2010 and there is wide support amongst communities in the north of York. I will therefore be supporting the council’s planning application in the strongest possible terms in the name of finally getting this project developed.
I have raised concerns with the council however that as time goes on there is a risk that the project is deviating from its core purpose, that is to provide an economic boost by alleviating congestion on the ring road. The council’s Executive met last week to approve recommendations in response to public requests for enhanced pedestrian and cycling provision in the scheme. This is something we would all like to see and I agree that the scheme provides a once in generation opportunity to incentivise cycling and improve connectivity between the villages and the city centre. I supported the inclusion of significant new pedestrian and cycle networks, the retention of all current footpaths and bridleways and the creation of four new underpasses as part of the original plans. Myself and Conservative colleagues on the council have lobbied for specific provision to be made to provide safe access to businesses to the north of the Wigginton Road roundabout and to amend the location of the crossing on Strensall Road as it passes through Earswick.
The recommendations approved by the council last week not only fail to address these reasonable concerns but I fear represent a backwards step in the aim of easing traffic congestion. The new plans will see the introduction of two signalised crossings across the main carriageway at the Wigginton Road roundabout and another toucan crossing, again across the main carriageway, for the bridleway at Monks Cross. Signalised crossings, bringing traffic flow to a complete standstill, will be a completely new addition for York’s major roads and is arguably not in the spirit of what dualling is trying to achieve. I have already voiced my opposition and urged the council to reconsider on this basis.
Regardless of the specifics of the plans, the importance of the project remains and I hope that the council’s commitment to get the development stage underway by 2023 will be met. The timely approval of the planning application is a vital step towards achieving this and I would encourage all local residents and other interested parties to engage fully with the process and keep up the momentum behind the scheme.