Councillors united in opposition to Kemplay flyover

Date: Friday 20th April 2018

EDEN Council has backed leader Kevin Beaty in his call for Highways England to scrap plans for a Penrith flyover which he branded a “carbuncle” last week.

On Thursday, the council voted 31 in favour with none against in support of Mr Beaty’s motion that the Government agency forget about a Kemplay Bank flyover.

Highways England, the government company in charge of major A-roads and motorways, is exploring potential solutions to solve a gridlock issue at Kemplay and Skirsgill, where thousands of vehicles from the A66 merge with traffic from the A6 and M6. Snarl-ups at the roundabout are forecast to get worse once the A66 from Scotch Corner to Penrith has been fully dualled.

But Mr Beaty (Con, Skelton) favours a highly controversial “back of the Beacon” eastern relief road to plug A66 traffic into Junction 41 of the M6 and reduce congestion on Penrith’s outskirts.

He said a flyover would be far short of solving Penrith’s future traffic problems which will only get worse as thousands of new homes are built. Instead, he has called on Highways England to put its attention towards other fixes at the north, east or south of Penrith.

Mr Beaty told the council chamber: “Time is slipping on this. If there is to be a flyover in Penrith, my main objection is the air pollution and I can’t see how a flyover could help ease traffic congestion.

“We have 2,500 homes planned in Penrith which are likely to join that junction. The A6 is also used by Highways England as an alternative route when the M6 is shut because of an accident. This motion is that we oppose a fly-over on those grounds and that over the next year we want Highways England to look at alternatives and make sure they make the correct decision for Penrith and wider Eden.”

His motion secured cross-party support and was seconded by the leader of the Independents, Langwathby councillor Douglas Banks, who said: “I don’t think Junction 40 is suitable for a flyover. The eastern bypass route is maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but anything is better than the current Highways England scheme. We have to take into consideration the proposed garden village in Carlisle, and a £50 million scheme planned for Whitehaven. If we don’t show some progress for the long term vision for Penrith, we’re going to end up at the back of the queue.”

Henry Sawrey-Cookson (Ind, Kirkby Thore) said a flyover would quickly become gridlocked. He said: “At the moment you can stand in traffic for 20 minutes at Kemplay Bank. Another three or four years and the whole place could grind to a halt. That would affect the economics, the number of tourists and the life of the people of Penrith. We have had enough talking — we want action.

He added: “I have been living with the A66 and a resident of most of the troublesome spots for nearly 40 years. It seems to me that it always comes to the surface whenever there’s a number of accidents. We haven’t got any time now, it’s time to get into it and lobby and get things done.”

Liberal Democrat leader Virginia Taylor (Penrith East) said she did not support a flyover for Penrith.

Andy Connell (Lib Dem, Appleby) said he had attended the same meeting with Highways England which Mr Beaty had gone to, and had understood things differently.

Mr Connell said: “I didn’t honestly hear a proposal for a flyover. I heard something needs to be done — either going under it, over it or round it ± but I think it’s jumping the gun to say this is a proposal from Highways England, because that’s not what I heard.”

Mr Beaty replied: “The plan described was a flyover in and around the south of Penrith and the only area of Eden with poor air quality. It has been described to me as a flyover. In fact the Highways England press statement last week, in response to our press statement, said a flyover is one of the options they are considering.

“I bring this motion to council to make everybody aware that this development is a possible plan by Highways England, and I bring it in the hope that Highways England will look at alternatives to the north, east and possibly the south of Penrith.”