Villagers in Warcop and Musgrave are up in arms about the route of a new five-mile dual carriageway section of the A66 between Appleby and Brough being proposed by Highways England.
The two parish councils are calling for a rethink, after surveys they carried out revealed that 94 per cent of respondents would like to see a northern route rather than Highways England’s preferred southern one, running adjacent to the existing A66.
David Keetley, chairman of Warcop Parish Council, said that when the consultation was carried out, residents only had one option to choose from while other places such as Crackenthorpe and Kirkby Thore were given more options.
“There is quite a strength of feeling in the community against Highways England’s preferred route between Brough and Appleby,” said Mr Keetley. “They (residents) are proposing that they build the road further north away from any residential or business properties.
“They (Highways England) would not look at our proposal, because it goes over MoD land and the other part over the North Pennines AONB (area of outstanding natural beauty),” said Mr Keetley.
“In my view they probably wanted to go for the easier option, otherwise they would have to deal with the MoD and those who protect the AONB.”
The proposed northern alternative would take the new road across a small section of AONB from Brough, behind all MoD buildings, and would make use of natural valleys behind any settlements, before returning to the line of the existing road further west towards Café 66.
Those who have devised the route say this option would reduce noise, air and visual pollution from the village of Warcop and other affected properties near Sandford and Langrigg.
They say it would only require two major east-west junctions at Sandford and west of Brough, thus avoiding the building of a large bridge at Warcop. The entire five-mile stretch of the old A66 would be available for local traffic, walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
Army access roads will be retained with appropriate bridges and all historic monuments and settlements would be avoided.
“Property values will not be reduced by the increased proximity of this major road scheme,” said Mr Keetley.
“Construction will be more straightforward as the works will be entirely self-contained between the two junctions.
“In addition we are concerned about the increased flood risk to Warcop, which had 11 properties flooded in 2015.
The additional run off from the road cannot be allowed to enter local streams and increase water levels.
“Our proposal would enable run off water from the road to be collected in the fells in large storage ponds which could be a great help in helping reduce the flood risk to Warcop.”
Mr Keetley pointed out that other major road schemes have been built across AONBs in “exceptional circumstances” and cited a tunnel being approved near to Stonehenge.
“Finally, we believe that the northern route would be a spectacular driving experience, which will take some 14,600 vehicles a day completely away from residential properties.”
Nearly 300 survey forms were sent out to villagers and there were 190 returned.
Among the comments were that the northern route would be “less disruptive to the local community” and “a far more sensible and less impactful solution.”
Highways England will be further consulting with communities on the £1 billion scheme to dual all remaining single carriageway sections of the A66.
Senior project manager Matt Townsend, of Highways England, said: “We are committed to building on the positive relationships we have with communities that live along the route.”
The scheme — set to be largest ever investment in a single-road project — was unveiled in May.
Specialist teams have already conducted ecological, environmental and heritage assessments across the route.
More ground and soil surveys are set to take place during winter and Highways England want to talk to people about what it is doing.
Highways England has created an online update to help people understand everything from travel access to junction designs.
Due to COVID-19, face-to-face consultation events will not be held, but people can visit the website for the latest updates.
Anyone who cannot get online can call the project team on 0333 090 1192.