Calls to halt road widening scheme where traffic levels have fallen

Arguments over whether to fell mature trees as part of a major scheme to widen Halifax Road in Huddersfield could be solved by an independent “peacemaker”.

That’s the suggestion of Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman following a meeting with Green campaigners.

Kirklees Council aims to spend £12.9m on widening the A629 Halifax Road at Edgerton to cut congestion and improve journey times.

The project will include felling dozens of mature trees – some more than a century old – and taking sections of some residents’ gardens as part of the widening process.

But campaigners have highlighted that statistics show a 25% fall in traffic on the key route into Huddersfield town centre.

Addressing the online event (Oct 15), which was hosted by Greenpeace Huddersfield Local Group, Mr Sheerman said an independent expert could be useful in thrashing out the issues.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service he said: “I spoke to the chief executive and the leader of the council. They think it’s a good scheme overall.

“The objectors do not. They think it’s terrible.

“If you get an issue like this that is very contentious, why not get someone to act as a peacemaker between [both sides] and get an independent opinion?

“I am trying to bring the two sides together.”

Another speaker at the event, the Greens’ Clr Andrew Cooper, said Mr Sheerman’s suggestion of what attendees called “an independent review” into the A629 expansion led to more questions.

He said: “Mr Sheerman said there should be an independent review of the scheme. But what would that be, who would do it, who would fund it and would the council abide by its findings?”

Clr Cooper, who represents Newsome, has previously called for the road project to be put on hold. He said re-evaluating the scheme was “essential” given that commuting patterns have changed “radically” during the Covid pandemic.

Deputy Council Leader Clr Peter McBride (Lab, Dalton) has previously said developing the project was “absolutely necessary” as it would “de-congest the linkage points” between Huddersfield and Halifax, which had a positive knock-on for travel between the towns’ hospitals.

Residents have said widening the road to cut congestion and improve journey times by two minutes was “crazy”.

Sarah Newton from Save The Trees Kirklees, who spoke at the online event, rejected the council’s stance and said traffic had decreased by 26% along the A629 in Edgerton since the peak of 2005.

She added: “This trend of falling traffic is not unique to Huddersfield but part of a wider picture that the council need to consider as part of a greener future for Kirklees.”

Department for Transport statistics based on average annual daily flow (AADF) show a peak of 23,796 motor vehicles in 2005.

By 2018 that had figure had dropped to 17,602, which was from a manual count. An estimated count in 2019 based on the previous year’s AADF showed 17,765.

The counts are based on a 2.1-mile stretch of the road from the A62 Castlegate slip road to the A643 roundabout at Ainley Top.

YorkshireLive – Halifax