Deputy leader questions 'stupid' investment in proposed Northampton relief road

The deputy leader of Northampton Borough Council has said the authority’s continued financial support for the building of a new relief road is ‘stupid’.

Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 8:48 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 8:50 am
The route of the proposed North-West Relief Road

Councillor Phil Larratt raised concerns that the authority might be wasting taxpayers’ money by continuing to back the proposed North-West Relief Road.

His comments came during a cabinet meeting on January 22, where the council’s latest finances were discussed.

The borough council set aside £4.2 million of its capital funds for 2019/20 to help fund the county council project, which would see a new road linking the A428 Harlestone Road with the A5199 Welford Road, via a junction in Grange Farm. So far the council has accounted for £1.1 million of those capital funds.

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But the relief road has faced significant criticism from some members of the public. One residents’ association estimates that the road, while good for the Dallington and Buckton Fields areas, would increase traffic in Kingsthorpe, Boughton and Whitehills by up to 87 per cent.

And Councillor Larratt, a veteran of the Guildhall chamber, spoke out against the borough’s investment in the scheme at the meeting, saying it could potentially be ripped up in years to come if rail lines crossing the relief road are reopened.

He said: “I just wonder why we are investing in a scheme that we don’t all agree with. I think it’s excessive, I don’t think it needs to be as big. Why also are we building on a railway track when only recently we heard from Network Rail about the possibility of reopening some old tracks.

“Are we not being stupid in supporting this? We are wasting taxpayers money if we continue to invest in this and it’s something that could become a big white elephant.”

Last month however the borough council’s planning committee raised no objections in principle to the county council’s planning application for the 1.6km bypass.

A section from the A428 to just south of the railway line has already been constructed as part of the Harlestone Manor development, while the remaining section would serve the 3,000-home Dallington Grange development between New Duston and Kingsthorpe.

The single-lane carriageway would include two new roundabouts, and a transport assessment for the relief road states that it is ‘necessary to enable and unlock the future development of 6,600 houses and more than 3,000 jobs in Northampton’. It also adds that it will help relieve pressure on the existing road in northern Northampton and nearby villages.

The project overall is estimated to cost between £25 million to £40 million.

Council leader Jonathan Nunn said it was vital however that the borough council ‘campaign harder’ for the ‘much more needed’ Northern Orbital Route, another major road project planned for the north of the town.