Richard Davies, the executive member for highways at Lincolnshire County Council, is confident plans for the Lincoln Eastern Bypass will move forward after the project was rejected by the Transport Secretary following a public inquiry.
The Department for Transport (DfT) did not grant the legal orders that the council requires to proceed with the project because of safety concerns relating to the junction connecting Hawthorn Road to the footbridge which would span the bypass.
The council will now look to address the issues outlined in the inspector’s report and then resubmit its application for the legal orders.
Richard Davies said: “I was obviously disappointed with the decision, but major projects like this are complicated and you just have to get on and deal with the challenges that come your way.
“We now have to make a small adjustment to our design so we can address the planning inspector’s concerns.
“Once we’ve done that we’ll resubmit our application for the necessary legal orders.
“This process can often take time, and the funding was only originally guaranteed until March 2015, but this isn’t necessarily set in stone.
“We’re in discussions with the Department for Transport to understand what the best way forward is, and all being well the project will not be significantly delayed.
“Let me be clear though – no ifs, no buts, and no maybes – we will build an Eastern Bypass. Although this is a stumbling block, it’s something we can, and will, overcome.”
Q&A: What happened and what’s next
What has the inspector actually said?
The inspector felt that there wasn’t enough ‘distance and visibility’ between the slip road coming off the bypass, and the cyclepath coming from the bridge.
The inspector’s report, said: “As currently designed, I have serious reservations about the safety of users (of the bridge). LCC has not demonstrated that there will be adequate distance and visibility between the eastern end of the proposed cycleway, where it joins Hawthorn Road, and the slip road off the bypass.”
Is this about ‘stopping up’ Hawthorn Road?
No, the inspector made it clear that she did not consider the stopping up of Hawthorn Road to be a significant issue: “Examination of the evidence leads me to conclude that several safe alternative routes exist or would be provided as a result of the scheme, which are unlikely to suffer from congestion or excessive queuing.
“The potential deficiencies for those travelling by motor vehicle are some slightly longer journeys in time and distance….I conclude that for people travelling by motor vehicle reasonably convenient routes will be available or will be provided to compensate for the proposed stopping up of Hawthorn Road.”
What happens now? Is the bypass still going to go ahead?
The council is committed to building the bypass and as far as we are concerned it will still go ahead. The DfT certainly hasn’t cancelled the scheme – this is a decision based upon an independent report following the Public Inquiry; it remains for the promoters of the scheme (Lincolnshire County Council) to consider the concerns and recommendations of the inspector and submit revised legal orders for consideration.
Is the funding time sensitive?
The funding is guaranteed until March 2015, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it runs out then. We’re speaking to the Department for Transport (DfT) to understand exactly where we stand. We believe the project remains at the stage where it has programme entry in the DfT’s ‘Local Authority Major Transport Schemes’ programme and in effect retains provisional funding approval.
Who’s to blame for this?
It’s not a case of blaming anyone – highways officers from LCC submitted a plan that met DfT guidelines and they felt was safe, the planning inspector simply had a different opinion. We respect the inspector’s view and will amend the scheme accordingly. Major schemes are never simple, and this situation underlines the complexity and detail involved in delivering a £100m scheme.
What’s the new timeline?
At this stage we aren’t able to give a specific time, but we hope to be able the project back on track without significant delay.