August 27, 2022 7.00 am This story is over 22 months old

John Marriott: The North Hykeham Relief Road – Good news for us here, but what about the rest?

The saga or Lincoln’s belt road

Well, it looks as if that long promised relief road for the town in which I have lived for the past 45 years is yet another step nearer to reality.

This week a card from the County Council came through my door inviting my views on the ‘North Hykeham Relief Road’ (a far more appropriate name than the rather vague ‘Southern Bypass’, which had been previously chosen) and inviting me and other residents to a series of meetings in September.

With work scheduled to begin in three years’ time and a completion date by around 2027, with a bit of luck, I might still be around to see it, although possibly by then and given my age, without the ability to drive my car along it — and I don’t suppose they’ll allow mobility scooters! On the other hand, given our present financial situation and possible protests from environmentalists, delays necessitated by archaeologists and other interests etc, it could all still be much later, if at all.

I’ve written about a relief road around the Hykehams before – indeed I made a rather minor local political career out of campaigning for it – so apologies to those of you who know the history. For those who don’t, please feel free to carry on reading. I wrote ‘Hykehams’ intentionally, because when the plans for the ‘Eastern Bypass’ were originally published in 1951, the road was envisaged to go from where Pennell’s roundabout is today, heading south around North Hykeham, passing between South and North Hykeham at Beck Lane, then heading up Waddington Cliff from Brant Road near Station Road, around Bracebridge Heath and eventually, in the east, eventually joining the A158 Wragby Road, at Bunkers Hill.

This all changed when the government published plans in the early 1980s, which envisaged a western route from the old A46 heading north of Lincoln to the A15 Riseholme Road. Some years ago a former senior highways official told me that this was the stretch, which was the responsibility of the Department of Highways, (as it still is) and which qualified for government finance. The County Council then agreed to fund the continuation of the road as far as the A158. So, when the new ‘Western Bypass’, renamed the A46, was opened by Transport Minister Linda Chalker MP back in the 1980s, that’s what we got.

The old plan was allowed to lapse, which meant that the protected line between the Hykehams at Beck Lane and up Waddington Cliff from Brant Road became history. The latest plan now goes to the west of South Hykeham and its climb up Waddington Cliff is now not by means of a flyover — but would appear to convert Station Road, Waddington into two cul de sacs.

That it will be a dual carriageway is an added bonus; but in my humble opinion, not essential. After all, it’s a relief road and not of strategic importance to traffic wishing to move from the East Midlands corridor to the east coast ports, whose importance will only increase as we try to cope with the changing status that Brexit necessitates in an effort to relieve pressure from the Channel ports and the southeast in particular.

Incidentally, the County Council’s original plans for a fully dualled Eastern Relief Road were rejected by the Coalition Government for precisely that reason. In its opinion at the time a new road south of Lincoln was essentially a commuter route. It did not consider it of strategic importance to the wider East Midlands. That’s why it ended up a single carriageway. All I would say is that it was better to have a new road here than none at all. Life is full of compromises. It’s a pity that the many ‘cakeists’ can’t get the message!

I first got interested in a North Hykeham Relief Road in the 1980s and, when I became a Town Councillor in 1987, helped to organise a campaign for a town bypass, which culminated in a 4,000+ signature petition being delivered to opposition parties at Westminster in 1996. Unfortunately, our local Conservative MP at the time would not back us, citing the lack of enthusiasm from the then Lib/Lab led County Council. In all fairness, he did have a point. Mind you, it’s not the only time that I’ve felt let down by my erstwhile colleagues and natural partners. I’m pleased to see that our present MP has adopted a much more positive position, especially as she can now rely on what amounts to a political monopoly on the County Council.

So, why aren’t I jumping for joy? Well, while a North Hykeham Relief road might ease some of the problems caused by mainly commuter traffic trying to get around the town on roads which have changed little from the days of the horse and cart, the problems along Newark Road, Doddington and Skellingthorpe Roads will only really be eased when something is done about the level crossings on the last two. Why not consider dropping the rail line from North Hykeham to pass below these roads? Now that WOULD be radical – and expensive too. Where there’s a will…

In the meantime, we really ought to be putting more effort into dualling those parts of the Western Bypass that remain stubbornly single lane. This road, as I have written before, is the key strategic road for traffic moving east to west and vice versa that wishes to bypass Lincoln. While the stretch from Pennells roadabout and from the Doddington to Skellingthorpe Road is still the responsibility of HM Government in the form of Highways England, the stretch from the A15 to the A158 is, as far as I know, still the responsibility of the County Council. So the latter stretch, given its essential rural nature, could be dualled comparatively cheaply as soon as there was the political will from County Hall. The other piece, given the first stretch needs to cross water, might be more expensive; but, actually, that is the stretch that gets the most traffic. Have you tried to access Pennells roundabout from the A1434 or from Middle Lane or the A46 from Moor Lane, Thorpe on the Hill, recently?

You know, if it really came down to cost, and I was asked to choose between a dual carriageway Hykeham Relief Road and status quo for the Western Bypass or a cheaper single carriage relief road and a fully dualled Western Bypass, I reckon I might just choose the latter.

John was a councillor for thirty years, finally retiring in 2017. A schoolteacher by profession, he served on the North Hykeham Town Council (1987-2011), the North Kesteven District Council (1987-1999, 2001-2007) and the Lincolnshire County Council (2001-2017). He was also a County Council member of the former Lincolnshire Police Authority for eight years until standing down in 2009. In 1997 he was the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Sleaford and North Hykeham. He is currently not a member of any political party.