The councillor in charge of highways and transportation at Lincolnshire County Council has warned that further delays to the start of the proposed Lincoln Eastern Bypass could put the entire project at risk.
Speaking shortly before the start of the second public inquiry into the planned Lincoln Eastern Bypass, Richard Davies said he was “confident” that the inspector would accept the adjustments put forward by the council.
In July 2014, the Department for Transport (DfT) rejected plans for the road after concerns were raised about a junction connecting Hawthorn Road to a footbridge spanning the bypass. Since then, the county council has approved a revised design of the footbridge.
The two-week inquiry will see DfT officials consider the case for and against the legal orders (Compulsory Purchase and Side Roads Orders) that are needed for work to proceed.
Councillor Davies said: “I am confident – it’s a different inspector who is not tied to any previous decisions which have been made elsewhere. But I think it’s a great scheme for Lincoln and Lincolnshire and it’s important that we get on site and start building as soon as possible.
“It would be hugely damaging if the inspector turned around and told us to go back to the drawing board. Our planning permission for the scheme runs out shortly, which in turn puts our funding from central government at risk.
“The cost-benefit of this scheme is vast. For every pound we invest in this road, the economy would benefit many times over and I think the risk of not doing this is huge.
“The real benefit of the scheme is taking a large chunk of traffic, especially HGVs, out of Lincoln. Anyone who comes down Canwick Hill and along Pelham Bridge will know how busy that stretch of road can be – in fact it’s arguably the busiest stretch of road in Lincolnshire.”
The £100 million project would see the a single carriageway bypass run from the roundabout at Wragby Road to a new roundabout at Sleaford Road on the A15.
Richard Davies added: “We originally wanted to build a dual carriageway. The incoming government in 2010 stopped us doing that so we’ve had to manage our expectations accordingly.
“We can’t afford to build a dual carriageway whatever the pros and cons and our funding from central government would be at risk if we tried to build one anyway so we have to deliver what is achievable.
“But saying that, the scheme is future-proof to an extent as we can upgrade and enlarge it as and when required.”
The public inquiry is taking place over two weeks at DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Lincoln.
Representations will be made from Lincolnshire County Council, Lincoln Business Improvement Group, and objectors to the scheme.
A site inspection is also scheduled for August 19, with the inquiry expected to finish later that day.
A decision from the inspector is expected in October and November of this year.
If the project is given the go-ahead, work would begin in the middle of 2016, with the bypass taking a further three years to complete.