Councillors criticise Highways England over Towcester relief road

The Towcester relief road (top) was discussed by councillors at The Forum in Towcester (bottom)
The Towcester relief road (top) was discussed by councillors at The Forum in Towcester (bottom)

South Northamptonshire Council is continuing in its efforts to bring forward the delivery date of the Towcester relief road.

The authority remains committed to accelerating the delivery of the relief road for work to start in March 2020. The road, the council says, would remove HGVs from the town centre by providing a link between the A43 and A5 on the outskirts of the town.

A latest report on the road’s progress was given to the council’s scrutiny committee on Thursday (April 4), which stated: “The council continues to progress work to start the delivery of the Towcester Relief Road from March 2020 as part of the supporting infrastructure for the town, working collaboratively with the developers, the county council and Highways England.

“Once the detailed design has been agreed, the construction is anticipated to take between 12 and 18 months to complete.

“At the same time, but separately, the council will work to progress the 'de-trunking' of the A5 through the town.”

Funds for the relief road come from section 106 monies from developers associated with the planning permission for thousands of new homes on the Towcester SUE site.

But councillors expressed their frustration at the length of time the project is taking to complete.

Councillor Richard Dallyn said: “Nothing has changed from a few years ago. We’re in a hole and not getting anywhere. Everybody is going in the same direction on this but we don’t know why these agencies are not responding to our reasonable demands that in order to rid the town centre of HGVs then the road needs to be retrunked.”

Andrew Hunkin, the council’s executive director of resources, said that efforts were still being made by the council, and local MP Andrea Leadsom, to kickstart the works as soon as possible.

He said: “We have increased our efforts even more to talk with the county council and Highways England to see what we can do. It’s not going to be easy and this won’t happen overnight.”

But Councillor Allen Walker added: “Highways England are a law unto themselves and will deal their priorities first. Even an MP can’t get through this stepping stone. All we can do is persevere and hope for the best. They are the worst people in the world to deal with, but I’m talking about the admin staff not the agents here.”

Last month, the council had raised frustrations that Highways England had not prioritised safety improvement works on the A43 in the area.