Controversial North-West Relief Road in Northampton awarded planning permission

A controversial plan to build a new 1.9km bypass in Northampton has finally been granted planning permission.

Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 4:05 pm
A layout of the North-West Relief Road.

The North-West Relief Road, a Northamptonshire County Council scheme, was approved today (September 22) by councillors on the authority’s own Development Control Committee.

A bypass for the north of the town has been in the pipeline since 1988, and today’s approval brings that journey to an end.

But the decision will no doubt anger more than 200 residents who registered objections, and 1,200 people who signed a petition against the scheme.

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The single-lane carriageway will now be built on land south of the A5199 (Northampton Road) between Brampton Golf Centre and the River Nene. It includes two new roundabouts and links going over the river and West Coast mainline to connect with Dallington Grange.

But complaints were made from residents over ‘misleading’ consultations and ‘inaccurate’ traffic modelling, with Boughton Parish Council and the Whitehills and Spring Park Residents’ Association (WASPRA) leading the objections, along with ward county councillors.

The main bone of contention was that a model predicting the amount of traffic had not been re-run following amendments to a roundabout on the road.

Matthew Dale-Harris, a barrister for Leigh Day, on behalf of Boughton Parish Council: “The parish council has deep concerns about the quality of the technical work that underpins this application, and the potential legal consequences of those deficits.

“Our primary concern is that there is no adequate modelling for the new mitigation now proposed for the Vyse Road roundabout in place. It’s a long additional lane that is being put in, and that’s modelled to make a huge difference to the operation of that roundabout, which is going to have the effect of diverting a significant amount of extra traffic into the village.”

Charlotte Mackaness, a parish councillor for Boughton, added: “If you don’t want to know the answer, don’t ask the question. Is this the real answer as to why the model has not been re-run? This won’t be a ‘relief’ road it will be a ‘grief’ road.”

Councillor Sam Rumens, the county councillor for the Kingsthorpe North ward, criticised the consultation and said that it was seeking views on the relief road alongside plans for a further ‘North Orbital’ road that was due to complement it. A lack of funds has seen the Orbital road project stall, and now the Relief Road has been brought forward on its own.

He said: “We haven’t really had a proper consultation on just the North-West Relief Road. As many others have explained, the impact of this on traffic, pollution and safety on roads is massively negative if we have the North-West Relief Road as a standalone. That’s undeniable. There will be small improvements in some areas, but the negatives are so significant in some areas it’s ridiculous and unreasonable.”

And Sean Brady, the chairman of WASPRA, said: “With this application, we’re sleepwalking into another planning disaster like the bus station and Angel Square. Our traffic assessments show gridlock is certain. The proposed roundabout is without question a danger with HGVs trying to navigate its multi-lane layout. This road will cause traffic to push down the various rat runs by parents making their way to school and it’s only a matter of time before the first casualty.

“You might think there is no alternative to approve this plan today. But there is. Begin this plan again from the start and submit it alongside plans for a full Northern Orbital road.”

And Patrick Cross, a local resident and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport, added: “This is a waste of money. It will only move congestion around the corner. The orbital road is the only sensible mitigation, and until it is in operation the NWRR should be postponed.”

But planning officers defended the modelling. Chris Bond, of Northamptonshire Highways – who were technically the applicants – said: “Re-modelling with the mitigations as currently proposed would not necessarily change the determination that is before you. The scheme does increase traffic movements through Boughton, yes. But it decreases traffic movements in a number of other areas and the balance is still there and that hasn’t changed in that regard. Overall, the conclusions that can be drawn on the current level of detail that is available to you would be no different if you were to re-run the modelling.”

And seven of the eight councillors on the committee sided with officers. Councillor Malcolm Waters said: “We have a responsibility as councillors to build houses and roads. We can’t bury our heads in the sand. The planning conditions have been laid out clearly. People will work on this for months to come.”

The only councillor to object, Councillor Graham Lawman, said: “I agree we need to build new roads. But I’m a bit aggrieved because this claims to be a relief road but it isn’t. I’m concerned there are more detriments to local residents than there is benefit.”

But the report from planning officer Phil Watson stated: “When making decisions where there are some negative impacts these need to be balanced against the positive impacts and the wider considerations of the future economy of the built-up area.”

Construction work on the relief road must start within three years of today’s date.