Community leaders are divided over plans to close a Yorkshire Dales town’s high street for five weeks as part of a £7m series of safety improvement projects, amid concerns the roadworks will hit the tourism industry and cause unacceptable levels of disruption to residents.
North Yorkshire County Council has described the resurfacing of the A684 through Hawes as essential for safety after the popular east-west route through the national park was identified among the country’s 50 most dangerous A-roads.
The highways authority has announced the works are due to run from April 25 to June 1 and see the A684 through Hawes closed from Monday to Friday, 7.30am to 4.30pm.
A council spokeswoman said a signed diversion route would be in place and pedestrian access maintained, but there may be times when access to properties is not possible even for businesses and residents.
Ahead of a public meeting to discuss concerns, Hawes councillor Jill McMullen said the proposed works had proved very contentious in the town.
The district and parish councillor said the proposed diversion route would be unsuitable for numerous vehicles as it featured bridges with weight restrictions.
She added no provision had been made for emergency services to get to the town centre or for petrol tankers to reach the Hawes community-run filling station.
Coun McMullen said: “Businesses have already suffered through Covid, we’ve already had disruption from Yorkshire Water digging up the road for several weeks and now they’re expecting the high street to be closed for five weeks at a time when tourists are coming back. It’s going to have a huge and devastating effect on the town.”
Calling for alternative plans to be developed, Coun McMullen said recent road repairs in Leyburn town centre had been carried out overnight to minimise disruption, but Hawes was not being afforded such consideration by highways bosses.
However, Upper Dales councillor Yvonne Peacock dismissed suggestions the works could have been done overnight, saying the depth of the repairs needed would mean a lot of noise.
She said while the road repairs were scheduled to take five weeks, the whole of Hawes would not be closed for that time and there would be routes for tourists to access the town centre.
Coun Peacock said talks were progressing with Richmondshire District Council and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority to allow free parking in their car parks for residents and that after the first fortnight people would be able to drive over the cobbles into the Market Place.
She said: “I’m not going to say it’s going to be easy. Anything like this somewhere like Hawes there will be disruption, but everybody agrees the work has to be done.
“It should have been done a long time ago, but we’ve had to wait for Yorkshire Water to get their work finished, and that’s why we have got to a stage where we are having to do the work straight after the Easter school holidays.”