Highways chiefs urged to pause £75m Cooper Bridge scheme near Mirfield

Highways chiefs have been urged to pause work on the £75m Cooper Bridge road plan near Mirfield until they receive a meaningful response from the public.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 10:30 am
An artist’s impression of how the Cooper Bridge roundabout near Mirfield could look after a major remodelling designed to cut congestion at the notorious bottleneck
An artist’s impression of how the Cooper Bridge roundabout near Mirfield could look after a major remodelling designed to cut congestion at the notorious bottleneck

The call comes after a senior figure on Kirklees Council branded as “pathetic” responses to the authority’s community engagement exercises.

Coun Peter McBride was referring to the numbers of people participating in surveys on £6m investment in four towns across the borough.

Response rates ranging from 1.88 per cent of the population to just 0.52 per cent were described as being “too poor to be considered viable”.

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Coun McBride said they were “meaningless in research terms” and were “frankly pathetic”.

Now he has been invited to scrutinise responses to the massive A62 to Cooper Bridge Corridor Improvement Scheme, where only 367 surveys were received from members of the public.

That represents 0.08 per cent of the population of Kirklees.

The controversial scheme, for which £10m has been allocated to create a business plan, is aimed at cutting traffic at Cooper Bridge near Mirfield.

The council expects to spend more than £75m on the mammoth project, which it says will cut congestion, improve air quality and reduce journey times.

The bulk of the budget will be provided by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), a group of leading councillors and officers from West Yorkshire councils, plus York, that works on major infrastructure projects.

But a vocal critic of the programme believes greater inclusion is needed.

Coun Martyn Bolt (Con, Mirfield) said public response rates to the Cooper Bridge plans were “miniscule”.

He added: ” I call on Coun McBride to stand by the statement he made and halt this scheme and conduct comprehensive community consultations in Kirklees and Calderdale primarily to ensure [the council’s] actions truly reflect the wishes of the community.”

He said following Coun McBride’s “forthright views” on the need for public responses to consultation to be much larger before anyone makes a decision, the same standard should be applied to major schemes.

A spokesperson for the West Yorkshire Combined Authority confirmed the completion of 367 surveys during the second stage of the public consultation, which took place from June 7 to July 18 last year.

In addition there were 2,740 unique visitors to WYCA’s YourVoice webpage.

During the first stage of the public consultation, which took place between December 8, 2018 and January 18, 2019, there were 6,394 unique visitors to the YourVoice webpage and 499 surveys were completed.

The spokesperson said: “As with all public consultations undertaken by the combined authority, in partnership with local authorities, both were widely publicised on social media, in the press and in information leaflets distributed to local residents and businesses.

“Unlike the first consultation, the combined authority was unable to undertake face-to-face engagement during the second consultation due to Covid restrictions.”

The Cooper Bridge project is a Kirklees managed scheme with WYCA carrying out the consultation work.