Villagers “desperately disheartened” at further bypass delay

Date: Saturday 28th February 2004

ONE of the leading supporters of a bypass of the A66 around Temple Sowerby said residents were becoming “desperately disheartened” by the constant failure of the Government to announce a start date for the scheme.

ONE of the leading supporters of a bypass of the A66 around Temple Sowerby said residents were becoming “desperately disheartened” by the constant failure of the Government to announce a start date for the scheme.

Dr. Gavin Young, whose surgery at Barn Croft runs beside the notorious road in the centre of the village, spoke out this week after the Highways Agency confirmed a lack of funding was likely to mean a delay in the commencement of the £18.5 million project.

After decades of campaigning, the bypass was officially given the go-ahead last year after a public inquiry. But after villagers were told construction might begin in April this year, they have learned with dismay that funding is not yet available.

Although the agency has suggested it could now start in late 2004 or early 2005, a spokesman confirmed last week that the lack of cash might mean even further delays.

Dr. Young, whose son James was left partially paralysed and almost totally deaf when he was struck by a passing wagon 11 years ago as he cycled through the village, appealed desperately for the announcement of a start date.

EXHAUSTED

“It is like being asked to run a marathon. You are exhausted but you reach the finish line and they say there is another lap to go,” he said. “The closer it gets to actually being allowed to finish, the more awful it gets to be disappointed. It is desperately disheartening. “

It was in 1974 that, after fierce campaigning, the then government produced a document which looked at a solution for the village. Snce then, bypass supporters have been forced to endure announcements which promised a solution but then came to nothing. “The volume of traffic increases year by year. It becomes more difficult to cross the road and pull out (in a vehicle) and life gets worse and worse,” said Dr. Young.

“Your strength, enthusiasm and hope is just sapped by the endless series of delays. I find it difficult that they cannot understand the awfulness we are in of constantly being told things that then don’t happen. There is a real need to get a definite start date from them.”

Although he admitted it was “not such a bombshell” that an April commencement had not materialised, he criticised the Highways Agency and Government ministers for providing Temple Sowerby residents and bypass supporters with false hopes.

“They never promised it would start in the spring,” he said. “They did say they hoped it would and I suppose that is the whole problem, we never ever get a 100 per cent. guarantee. It is always ‘probably’ and ‘we hope’ and ‘we aim’ but it is never ‘we will’.

“If the Highways Agency would say we will start by the such and such it would bring huge relief to us all. Given that they have taken it as far as they have in terms of the expense of a public inquiry and the huge amount of engineering work, I find it hard to believe they can do all that and say ‘we don’t know when it is going to happen because funding is not available’. That is back to front, it seems to me.”

Dr. Young understood the Highways Agency was due to make an announcement before the end of the summer. “We will wait and see. If we don’t get a firm announcement by then I think people will be very angry and we will be reviving the campaign of 20 years ago,” he added. Then, villagers bearing placards and banners protested in the centre of Temple Sowerby about a lack of government action.

Dr. Young’s dismay was echoed by Barbara Key, headteacher at Temple Sowerby School, who said: “When the bypass initially got the go-ahead we were delighted because for years we have been increasingly worried at the volume traffic passing within a few yards of the school.

SHOCKED

“Our major concern has been the safety of the children. We have pupils who cross the road twice a day. To be told now of this delay has, quite frankly, shocked and disappointed us.”

The school would again be writing to Penrith and the Border MP David Maclean about its concerns, she said.