The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, announced on Saturday 31 January 2021 that he has pledged up to £56m to realign the A59 road from Harrogate to Skipton. This realignment will overhaul the existing section of the route at Kex Gill, which is prone to landslips, and build a 3.9km-long new section.
This realignment has been long-awaited, as the A59 has seen six closures since 2000, lasting a total of 22 weeks, causing high maintenance costs and delays to journeys. Traffic has often endured a six-mile diversion through nearby towns and villages due to the recurring closures.
Grant Shapps said:
“I know that residents have been frustrated by frequent road closures at Kex Gill caused by landslips in the area. Our funding will go a long way towards addressing these problems, making journeys more reliable for people travelling between Harrogate and Skipton”.
North Yorkshire County Council will be leading the construction work and will provide £4m towards the £60m project.
Council leader, Councillor Carl Les said: “We whole-heartedly welcome this announcement. It is essential for the prosperity of businesses within North Yorkshire and the wider region that this route is safe, reliable, and resilient. The current road, with its history of landslips and resultant closures, cannot guarantee those things, so we urgently need this realignment”.
The council held first stage public consultation events in 2017 in Harrogate, Skipton, and Norwood, as well as online. The total of 600 responses showed a 90 percent support to improve Kex Gill. However, conservation groups such as the RSPB and Natural England raised their concerns to the council, as construction work could cause damage to the endangered wildlife in the area, and a designated site of special scientific interest (SSSI). Therefore, ecologists carried out environmental surveys in line with UK and European legislation to dictate how to protect and reduce the impact of the construction to the area.
This realignment follows last year’s announcements of £548m road maintenance in the Yorkshire region and £589m to upgrade the Transpennine main line to better connect the North’s cities. A Northern Transport Acceleration Council has been established to oversee the delivery of further such projects.
Pending the final approvals, the construction work is expected to begin in Autumn 2021.