Friends of the Peak District have condemned a call by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg for improvements to the A628 Woodhead Pass as part of a package to improve connections between Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds.
They say a raft of measures currently being investigated by the Highways Agency and the Department for Transport (DfT) would cause significant damage to national park landscapes and European nature conservation sites.
Friends of the Peak District have commissioned research from the Metropolitan Transport Research Unit (MTRU) that shows connectivity can be significantly improved without the need for damaging new road building.
Andy Tickle, Director of Friends of the Peak District, said: “We are solidly behind measures that will improve journey times across the Pennines but the best way to do this is by considering road and rail holistically. Resurrecting this tired and unsustainable road scheme will do little to help while causing immense damage to the Peak District National Park.”
The Campaign for National Parks has added its voice to the criticism of proposals for major road-building in the Peak District National Park.
Ruth Bradshaw, Policy and Research Manager said: “This proposal completely goes against the Government’s own policy on road building in National Parks and would cause huge damage to England’s oldest National Park.”
The current policy on presumption against development is set out in the UK Government Vision and Circular for English National Parks and the Broads 2010 which states that ‘there is a strong presumption against any significant road widening or the building of new roads through a Park, unless it can be shown there are compelling reasons for the new or enhanced capacity and with any benefits outweighing the costs very significantly. Any investment in trunk roads should be directed to developing routes for long distance traffic which avoid the Parks.’
Earlier this week Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called for a programme of improvements for the Woodhead Pass between Manchester and Sheffield, adding: “I will push to see these in the upcoming Roads Investment Strategy for completion by 2025.”
He also said the managed motorway scheme operating in West Yorkshire should be extended to the whole of the M62 between Leeds and Manchester and he is also pushing for electrification of trans-Pennine rail routes to reduce journey times between Leeds and Manchester and Sheffield and Manchester.
Speaking at a Northern Futures conference in Leeds, he said improved transport links were vital to boost the economies of northern towns and cities.
He said: “London and South East has had billions of transport investment over recent years from HS1 to Crossrail to the Northern Line extension. The perfectly reasonable requests I have been hearing from the north are basics that are needed if we are to create a true economic hub in the north of England.”