Cooper Bridge scheme has already cost £1m - before roadworks have even begun

Highways chiefs have said an unpopular plan to reduce congestion on the busy A62 Leeds Road into Huddersfield has already cost more than a million pounds – even before a shovel has gone into the ground.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Thursday, 26th August 2021, 2:00 pm
An artist’s impression of the re-modelled Cooper Bridge roundabout and new slip road, which were put out to public consultation
An artist’s impression of the re-modelled Cooper Bridge roundabout and new slip road, which were put out to public consultation

And they have admitted that development and consultation costs could eventually reach around £7m – approximately 10 per cent of the £69.3m budgeted for the overall scheme.

The cost has already exceeded what was allocated for development by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which is paying for the controversial programme. The remainder is expected to be underwritten by Kirklees Council.

However senior figures on the council were bullish about the overall benefits of the project – known as the A62 to Cooper Bridge Corridor Improvement Scheme – even as they conceded that some localised areas might be significantly impacted.

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Mirfield councillor Martyn Bolt

Highways officers looked at and rejected a range of options to reduce congestion on the route, including a roundabout at Bradley junction and the significant widening of the A62. The latter was discounted as it involved demolishing too many properties.

And they revealed that a proposed flyover linking Bradley with junction 25 of the M62 near Brighouse was dropped because it would have cost a “totally unaffordable” £120m – twice what the current scheme is budgeted at.

Local people remain concerned about plans to divert traffic from Leeds Road onto narrow Oak Road, a quiet residential street.

In a non-technical summary, highways officers have sought to justify the scheme, which forms part of a wider project set to cost £69.3m to improve the Cooper Bridge corridor.

Their “preferred option” involves widening as many of the approach roads into the Bradley junction as possible “to increase vehicular capacity”.

However that will not be enough to satisfy future traffic growth and so vehicle movements at the junction will be reduced, such as removing the right turn from Leeds Road onto Bradley Road to save time on the traffic lights cycle.

Some traffic not making that turn will instead be funnelled along Oak Road, with other vehicles “dispersed across the wider network”.

The plans were not well received when they were presented to a meeting of the council’s economy and neighbourhoods scrutiny panel on Tuesday (August 24).

It led to members refusing to endorse the scheme prior to it going forward to an as-yet undated meeting of the decision-making cabinet in September.

One member, Coun Martyn Bolt (Con, Mirfield), said he had “grave reservations” about whether the project would achieve its objectives.

Local people said the project was “a nightmare” and that they were struggling to see any positives in a scheme that would see HGVs rumbling past their homes, some of which are 200 years old, and a popular children’s park.

They said they could not make the link between re-routing traffic onto the road and the projected alleviation of congestion on the main road.

Residents were described as “sacrificial lambs” by Coun Robert Iredale (Lib Dem, Golcar) who said commuters using the A62 would be the winners, while local people would be the losers.

Residents’ concerns were echoed by local councillor James Homewood (Lab, Ashbrow), who said pushing traffic off the A62 onto Oak Road would worsen air quality in the area.

He called for robust analysis of the projected benefits and called for a review of other options to lessen the “detrimental impact” of what was on the table presently.

Officers said the present scheme meets the “projected need” of the area and represented a “realistic solution” to rising traffic in the area over the coming decades.

And they said the projected travel time saving of one minute was related to each and every vehicle using the route at peak times multiplied over the weeks, months and years to come.

They rejected criticism that their report was “vague” and that it failed to provide answers to key questions.

David Shepherd, the council’s strategic director for growth and regeneration, said the report was “as detailed as it can be at this stage”.

Pushed by Coun Bolt for detail on how local businesses have been involved in the plans, Keith Bloomfield, the council’s major projects lead, said discussions were taking place with hot food takeaway Marston’s and baby products firm Mamas and Papas, among others.

A recent six-week consultation into the council’s plans resulted in the completion of 367 surveys.

When asked to rate the proposed scheme, 44 per cent of respondents said it was good or very good for cars, with 34 per cent rating it poor or very poor.

Feedback could have an impact on the plans, with officers considering whether to use it to amend their designs.

Among the “specific interventions” being explored are a potential limitation – but not an outright ban – to HGV use of Oak Road, speed limit reductions on Oak Road and on a stretch of Leeds Road from Oak Road to Bradley junction, and a “full review” of the cycling design.