UPDATE: Political pressure growing to resurrect Northern Relief Road for Kendal but CCC finance chief cool on idea (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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UPDATE: Political pressure growing to resurrect Northern Relief Road for Kendal but CCC finance chief cool on idea
CUMBRIA'S most senior Conservative councillor has called for a mothballed road scheme to be resurrected.
Coun James Airey, who heads the Tory group on Cumbria County Council, wants to see proposals for the Kendal Northern Relief Road reinstated by the authority.
The plans have gathered dust in the last few years - despite CCC designating the 3.1 mile long project as a 'priority' in its Local Transport Plan 2006-11.
Instead, Coun Airey says other schemes serving the west Coast of Cumbria have taken precedence.
The cash-strapped authority would also need to win major government funding for the project.
Westmorland MP Tim Farron is in favour of the idea but a senior Lib Dem Cabinet member on the authority, Jo Stephenson, who holds the finance role on CCC and is deputy leader of the authority, says it is highly unlikely in the near or distant future.
The scheme aims to relieve Kendal town centre of heavy traffic - diverting lorries and HGVs bound for Kendal's industrial estates off town-centre roads by using the Kendal Bypass.
Then a multi-million pound 'relief road' at Plumgarths roundabout would connect drivers to its easterly estates and the A6 north of the Shap Road Industrial Estate.
Coun Airey pointed to recent 'massive backlogs' of traffic in Kendal recently with delays expected in the Station Road area for the 16 weeks due to works to repair the railway bridge.
Coun Airey said: "With the railway bridge repair, we have seen how vulnerable Kendal is to any disruption in traffic. Even when there are no obstacles it's very hard work getting to the north end of town. Cumbria County Council needs an action plan now to deliver this much needed infrastructure that will bring great benefit to residents and businesses."
Coun Airey claimed the Labour/Lib Dem coalition running CCC was prioritising schemes in west Cumbria instead of a Northern Relief road for Kendal.
However, Liberal Democrats running South Lakeland District Council have recently included the Northern Relief Road project in its its newly revised five year plan.
It states: "We will open up opportunities to the Northern Relief Road development north of Kendal."
And Westmorland MP Tim Farron has also given his backing and says if the scheme has cross-party support it has more of a chance of happening.
The relief road idea has existed since the 1920s, according to local Conservative councillor Roger Bingham.
Kendal resident, David Haynes said the relief road for Kendal was a must: "Kendal is notorious for traffic and any work to alleviate that will make a massive difference to the town. People won't visit or do business here if they struggle to get into town. A Kendal Northern Relief Road is an excellent idea and the sooner it is built the better."
Previous schemes have caused concern for residents in Burneside - likely to be in the path of any proposed plan.
Mr Farron said: "Whatever that road would cost, it would pay back the community in the short term - environmentally and from a business perspective."
The MP believes there is 'slightly more' capital project money available from Government than there was two to three years ago, which could make it a possibility.
He said any road would cost seven figures - "more than £10 million but not as much as £100 million."
But the scheme would have to be earmarked as a priority by the ruling Labour group which has shared power with the Lib Dems on Cumbria County Council but are seen as more likely to favour projects benefitting their Carlisle and West Cumbria wards.
"There are environmental considerations to take into account but the benefits to the community environmentally and economically are massive," said Mr Farron, who cited the toxic levels of pollution found on Lowther Street as just one of the reasons the town's traffic needs alleviating.
"The Liberal Democrat group on Cumbria County Council are pushing for it," said Mr Farron.
"Businesses need to come out and say they want it - this is important because it then allows for political pressure."
However, speaking to the Gazette, Lib Dem county councillor Jo Stephenson, said there were no current county council plans to develop the idea.
"It would have to be funded by the government," explained Coun Stephenson, who is group leader of the Lib Dems on CCC and its portfolio holder for finance.
"If there was really any appetite in government for funding this scheme, then of course we would get the plans out," he said.
"But it could potentially take quite a lot of money and time working on something that has no prospect of getting off the drawing board."
Coun Stephenson said without some advanced commitment from the Government the scheme would remain a 'token' and was 'unlikely to ever see the light of day.'
"The reality is that the government will not be funding major road schemes of this nature in the near future, but if councillor Airey has been able to use his influence to identify Government funding to deliver the scheme, then no doubt he will bring it forward in his alternative budget proposals next week and the Administration will be delighted to look at it again."
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