No justification for council’s “Back of Beacon” proposal

Date: Monday 11th June 2018

Sir, Eden District Council’s Liberal Democrat Group welcomes sustainable growth strategies which provide better housing and transport, and which promote the economic and social wellbeing of all Eden’s residents, alongside the integrity of its natural resources.

The historic layouts of our towns, settlements and road networks make development difficult, and we have supported research into ideas for building new sustainable communities.

However, we are not convinced that the “Back of the Beacon” development represents an appropriate solution. The lynchpin of the proposal was a new link road between Junction 41 and the A66. This formed a triangle on the map of a “Greater Penrith”, appearing to impose fewer constraints for the design of settlements. However, the more information we have the less feasible this proposal appears to be, economically or environmentally.

Highways England has already stated that the “Back of the Beacon” link road will not be part of the A66 upgrade programme, because of the likely cost, environmental damage and doubtful economic benefits.

Its recent statement reported in the Herald further clarifies that, even if this link road were ever built, it would be a bypass, and could not include access points to and from any new residential development between it and the Beacon.

Without a freeway transport link to the north, all traffic from the proposed new communities would have to percolate east, west and south.

It is hard to see how the western access (Salkeld Road/A6) or eastern (on to Kemplay by Carleton Hall) could be improved to accommodate so much increased traffic.

We therefore see no justification for the “Back of the Beacon” proposal. It did not emerge as the result of research commissioned by Eden District Council: such research might more speedily have ruled it out as being unsustainable in terms of transport and of the environment.

There may be some commercial advantages for Eden Council and others in the scheme, but its sustainability in a wider economic view seems untested and improbable.

We remain, however, in favour of sustainable growth strategies: we recommend that the earlier proposals in A Strategic Masterplan for Penrith 2011, commissioned by the council, be re-examined in the same detail as the “Back of the Beacon” proposal.

The sites on the west side of Penrith examined in the 2011 study present fewer engineering challenges and environmental impacts. Perhaps future Herald correspondents can enlighten us as to why this plan was largely abandoned. Yours etc,

VIRGINIA TAYLOR

(Leader, Liberal Democrat Group, Eden District Council)

Foster Street, Penrith.