Road building and National Parks: from the South Downs to the Peak District

11 Nov 2020

One of Campaign for National Parks’ priorities is reducing the impact of road traffic in National Parks. We are calling for all National Parks in England and Wales to be better supported by public transport and supporting National Park Societies campaigning against local road proposals.

Here, longtime National Parks campaigner Anne Robinson of CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire reflects on the latest road-building proposals impacting the country’s first National Park...

New road consultation

New road proposals for the Peak District Nov 2020

Consultation on the first length of road for a dualled expressway across the Peak District National Park started on Bonfire Night. Hot on the heels of the very disappointing news about the Preferred Route for the Arundel bypass, it shows the determination of the road builders to continue ‘business as usual’.

In the face of a global climate and ecological emergency, and with transport the most polluting sector for carbon emissions, Highways England continues to roll out expansion of its motorway and trunk road network across the country. Although the A57 Link Roads Project – a bypass of Mottram with a link road to Glossop - does not yet reach the National Park boundary, the plan is to extend it east towards and through the Park to the M1 in South Yorkshire.

Although we understand that the expressway through the Park would have a short tunnel under the moors, the route would become a bypass of the M62 motorway with traffic along the corridor forecast to treble. To this intrusive noisy and disturbing movement would be added the paraphernalia of road signs, crash barriers, lighting columns and CCTV. A new major road corridor imposed on the Peak District National Park, its setting and the wider countryside - do we really want this as a birthday present on the eve of the National Park’s 70th birthday?

A dangerous precedent?

National Park landscapes are world class and of international standing, and rightly have the strongest protection. They make a significant contribution to the economy which depends on their natural beauty and are essential to the health and well-being of the nation. That road builders are even thinking of driving an expressway through a National Park sets a dangerous precedent that flies in the face of all relevant Government policy. There is a long-established presumption against significant road widening or the building of new roads in National Parks and a substantial body of evidence showing that road schemes justified on the basis of reduced journey times fail to deliver the promised economic benefits.

But protecting the National Park should not be at the expense of the local communities. They urgently need to be relieved of traffic, as they were during the Covid-19 lockdown. The A57 Link Roads are intended to relieve congestion in Mottram but they would only shift the traffic jam further east, to nearby Hollingworth and Tintwistle (within the Peak Park). Unsurprisingly this outcome is not popular. Demands for a bypass of these two villages will become politically irresistible, and fuel the laying of yet more tarmac, which will generate yet more traffic. And so the cycle goes on…

We need a 21st-century solution

Instead, road space should be taken from cars and given to walking, safe cycle routes, bus and coach services. Coupled with improved train services, maybe a tram service, and restriction of heavy lorries from crossing the Peak Park, these measures offer the best way forward.

In the current situation, when climate emissions need to come down urgently, planning for yet more car journeys is a direct contradiction to this and a huge waste of resources. A recent YouGov survey indicated that most UK workers wanted to work from home for at least some of the time once the Covid-19 pandemic is over. If this holds true, there would be a substantial decrease in the numbers of commuters using this route. Highways England should reflect on how the world has changed, abandon this outdated 20th-century project and give the National Park something to celebrate next year.

Find the consultation here; it ends on 17 December 2020.