Appeal to highways bosses over A684 road closure

A sign advising of the closures in Bainbridge.

Traders and community leaders have issued a last-ditch appeal to highways bosses to reconsider a lengthy closure of a section of the main east to west road through the Yorkshire Dales, saying it will prove disastrous.

Instead of launching the carriageway patching works on Monday, North Yorkshire Council is being urged to carry out repairs on the A684 between Bainbridge and Aysgarth outside of the tourist season to help the many visitor-dependent businesses beside the road between the A1(M) and the Lake District.

Contractors for the authority have announced parts of the road will be closed over 13 weekdays, from 8am to 5.30pm, from June 19.

Roads bosses said the works had been programmed “for this time of year in order to avoid clashing with a number of other schemes that have commenced recently in the district which also use the same diversion route”, which runs from Wensley, near Leyburn.

They said it was difficult to do patching work during the winter months due to cold weather affecting the quality of the material and the lack of suitable diversion routes, and starting on Monday would allow the repairs to be completed before the school summer holidays.

They added works may be completed sooner than planned, providing there are no adverse weather conditions.

However, traders have expressed exasperation over the timing of the road closure, with some forecasting thousands of pounds of losses over the 13 weekdays, and disbelief at the lack of notice to prepare for the closure.

They have questioned why the new council’s five-year masterplan lists supporting “economically sustainable growth that enables people and places to prosper”, as among its leading ambitions, while failing to consult firms in the area over the scheme.

Some traders believe the road closure is a cheaper option for the council than completing the work under traffic light management, keeping one lane open at all times.

Traders said as the diversion route would not be able to take articulated vehicles due to road restrictions, deliveries would not be possible to farms and businesses in the area during the works.

Gillian Harrison, who runs Wensleydale Ice Cream in Thornton Rust, near Bainbridge, said even with the diversion, her business was effectively being closed for 13 days.

She said during the week the majority of her business came from passing trade.

Mrs Harrison said: “If the council were promoting business, then it would have liaised with businesses about when the works would least disrupt them. It’s all about communication.

“They have not contacted anybody apart from send one blanket letter out to parish councils, and so I only know about it as I am a parish clerk. None of the businesses know yet.

“I don’t care what anybody says, this is peak tourist season. It might not be school holidays, but you have got a lot of people who want to be on holiday now, there are lots of foreign nationals coming back for the first time and couples on walking holidays.

“The last years have been difficult for everybody, but when you’ve just started to get your business back and you’re really enthusiastic about it, and the weather’s here and you sell ice-creams… but I don’t consider the council has organised these roadworks properly.

“How can they possibly say what they have done is business-friendly?”

Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council chair, Councillor Jill McMullon described the proposed roadworks scheme as “ridiculous”.

She said: “The businesses in Hawes and along the A684 are concerned about the lack of trade. Highways say they have written to absolutely everybody, but I know they haven’t. People’s businesses will be put at risk if they have to close for 13 days.”

North Yorkshire Council’s interim highways area manager, Stuart Grimston,
said the resurfacing works would be phased to reduce disruption and that the road would be reopened on weekends.

He said: “Notification was issued two weeks in advance as per our standard protocol, and signage will be in place to advise that businesses will remain open.

“On-site personnel will assist in managing access to properties and businesses within the closure. Due to the nature of the resurfacing works, a temporary traffic light system is not an option.

“We ask the public for their patience while the essential resurfacing works are carried out. We will post regular updates on our social media channels and change on-site signage as the works progress.”