Two leading Horncastle councillors have hit out at a decision to shelve plans for a long-awaited town bypass, costing in the region of £50m.
There was genuine hope Lincolnshire County Council would end decades of traffic misery in Horncastle and use Government cash to build a bypass as a key part of the ambitious ‘Gateway to the Coast’ project.
Essentially, the project involves improving the A158 from Lincoln to boost access to coastal resorts like Skegness and inland market towns.
The county council launched a consultation process last year with Richard Davies, Executive Councillor for Highways, stressing a Horncastle bypass was vital to the multimillion pound scheme.
Plans for a route - to the south of the town - had been discussed in a bid to end notorious jams on the A158 and A153
Now, the council has performed a U-turn and confirmed the bypass ‘will not be able to progress’ because of a lack of funding.
The decision was described as ‘very disappointing’ by town mayor and district councillor Fiona Martin - and town and county councillor Bill Aron.
Coun Martin said: “I am very disappointed although I think the plans did divide opinion in the town between ‘we need it’ and ‘no, we don’t.’
“It is frustrating because the traffic is definitely getting worse, and with all the new developments planned, it is unlikely to get any better.”
Coun Aron said: “I was very disappointed to hear the decision.
“There is some glimmer of hope in that other funding streams may come along.
“The tailbacks on the A158 to Skegness are enormous - added to which we now have ever increasing North / South traffic on the A153 (Boston Road), “
Both Coun Aron and Coun Martin said they would continue to ‘make a case’ for a bypass.
According to the county council, the benefits of the bypass would not be enough to attract financial backing from the Department for Transport, despite millions of pounds being made available for projects.
However, the council stressed it would consider the project in the future, and look at other funding options.
The U-turn was included in a report before the authority’s Highways and Transport committee.
The report added the scheme ‘is included in the council’s pipeline of projects to consider in the future’.
Councillor Davies, executive member, said the council will consider other sources of funding for the bypass.
He explained: “Earlier this year, we carried out an initial assessment of a potential Horncastle bypass.
“Based on the Department for Transport’s scoring system for funding, we found that the benefits this project would bring wouldn’t be enough to attract government money towards the £50 million plus scheme.
“This doesn’t mean that Horncastle will never have a bypass, but it does mean we’ll need to look at other funding options before committing to spending £2-4 million towards moving the scheme forward to the design and business case stage.”
Local MP, Victoria Atkins, had called for the bypass back in 2016 and had lobbied in Westminster to secure funding.
Apart from solving delays, Ms Atkins argued the bypass would deliver a significant economic boost.
The bypass scheme was supported by the county council’s economy chief, Coun Colin Davie and by East Lindsey District Council who said the bypass would deliver a significant boost to tourism on the coast - and in the Wolds.
While Horncastle misses out, the authority said an ‘assessment’ for a relief road in Skegness as part of the coastal highway were being drawn up and are expected to be complete in the ‘coming months’.
•What do you think? Email your views to firstname.lastname@example.org