East Lindsey District Council leader Craig Leyland is backing calls for a Horncastle by-pass. claiming it could give a multi-million pound boost to the region’s tourist economy.
The A158 is the main route linking Lincoln with the coast but during the summer, there are often long-tails backs at the Bull Ring junction in Horncastle which highways chiefs say is the third busiest in the entire county.
Tourism is already worth an estimated £584m to the district economy and Coun Leyland believes that figure could increase dramatically with the better links a by-pass would bring..
Coun Leyland said: “The principal of a by-pass is very, very good.
“What we’ve got to make sure is its feasibility which is something the county council will be looking at.
“There’s the funding from central Government resources and we’ve got to understand what local people and businesses think about it.”
“Apart from the financial benefit, there’s the relief it would give, not just to coastal traffic but local and business traffic.”
Cpun Leyland revealed the district council had an ambition to double tourism income by 2020.
He admitted: “Just by people willing to invest in tourism, we are on target for that already.
“The potential to bring more visitors in and open up new markets is huge.
“The easier it is to get to a place - the more accessible it is - the more likely it is you are likely to visit .
“Transport links across the county aren’t great.
”We are making the best use of what we have and the infra structure is never going to be perfect because of the nature of the established road network.
“We need to make it as good as it can be and if putting a by-pass around horncastle does that then we need to consider it.”
While a by-pass would be welcomed by tourism businesses in the Wolds and on the coast, Coun Leyland admitted it was not a forgone conclusion winning support from people in the Horncastle area.
He added: “I’ve been at meetings where the business community has said ‘Look, this might be the death of the town.’
“I don’t necessarily think that because if you look at Burgh le Marsh and Louth, they are two towns with a by-pass but are thriving because they are making better use of what they’ve got.
“Building a by-pass is one thing but its what you do with it (the town) afterwards that is the issue.”
Coun Leyland went on to say it was important other places on the A158 notorious for jams - including Wragby and Gunby - were not forgotten.
However, he admitted it was ‘highly unlikely’ a new road from Lincoln to the coast would be built
He also confirmed that previous suggestions by the county council that an additional 1,000 new homes would have to be built in the Horncastle area to raise funds for a by-pass had disappeared.
Instead, he said there would have to be a concerted effort from everyone involved to secure a share of the Government’s £2billion funding put set aside for rural road improvements.
Coun Leyland explained: “The Government had recognised that in rural areas, new housing is not going to generate the income for a project like this.
“There are hundreds of outstanding applications and permissions in Horncastle and it might be that if the by-pass is built, they could be built out.
“If that happens, businesses could benefit from the greater footfall.
“My understanding is the by-pass is not going to depend on houses.
“Places like Wragby need to be looked at. There’s a long-standing problem there.
“I’m not a highways expert but what you do want is a situation where you solve one bottleneck and create one somewhere else.”
Coun Leyland also called on the region’s MP’s to continue to lobby Government for financial support.
He said Louth and Horncastle MP Victoria Atkins had already arranged meetings with Government ministers to highlight the Horncastle bottleneck.
The county councuil has given its cautious support for a by-pass but has refused to identify a posssible route - or when the porject could start.
However, Coun Leykland said he believed an agreement could be reached ‘in principal’ withion five or six years.
He added: “We need to understand all the implications - good and bad. That could be the trigger for everything else.”