Fresh opportunity for campaign to block new ring-road plan for Barnsley park

Campaigners trying to block an urban park being used for a new traffic ring-road in Barnsley have been given a fresh opportunity to raise official objections to the scheme after experiencing a series of setbacks.

Sunday, 24th February 2019, 5:32 pm
Updated Sunday, 24th February 2019, 5:37 pm
Fresh hope: New consultations give campaigners a fresh chance to object

Barnsley Council intends to install a new traffic gyratory on the site of Penny Pie Park, between the M1 junction 37 and the town centre, to alleviate a bottleneck which, they say, will see traffic queuing back onto the motorway in future unless action is taken.

Although the plans provoked widespread resistance, with 250 objections and a 2,500 name petition against the scheme, it was approved by the council, won planning permission and most recently Minister James Brokenshire decided the plan would not be ‘called in’ by the Government, meaning there will be no public inquiry.

But it has emerged that Barnsley Council has to consult once again on the scheme, because it means using land currently designated public open space.

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If there are objections – as expected – a report will have to be submitted to the authority’s ruling Cabinet for a fresh decision on whether the scheme can progress.

Should the consultations throw up fresh evidence, Cabinet members would have the option of refusing the “appropriation” of the land for highways use.

The need to switch the use of the park has been known to the council since plans for the gyratory were first formulated, with the option of looking to take up to six hectares of land out of ‘public green space’ written into the proposal.

To allow the development, the council will need only a fraction of that, 1.133 hectares, but campaigners have complained that will leave the park too badly compromised to be used, because much of it will become an island surrounded by the road, creating safety and pollution issues.

Coun Hannah Kitching, who has campaigned against the development along with her Liberal Democrat party and the Save Penny Pie Park protest group, said: “We will be bringing this opportunity to the attention of the residents who are interested in this case and will encourage them to take part in the consultation.”

However, she questioned why the scheme had been allowed to proceed in the light of previous consultations where a raft of concerns had been raised by those living in the area and said the council had “completely ignored all of the written objections submitted”.

“What is the point of consultation if you don’t listen to what the community is saying?” she said.

Barnsley Council has conceded the scheme will have some negative impacts, but have selected it from more than 30 options which were explored by highways experts as the one expected to cause least problems, while tackling the traffic issue.

Barnsley is unusual in that the main route from the M1 to the town centre is a single carriageway trunk road, when most communities have dual carriageway links, capable of carrying more traffic.

As traffic levels have increased, that has become more of a problem and projections suggest if nothing is done traffic will be left queuing back onto the motorway at busy times, a situation the council says would not be tolerated by Highways England.

They want to avoid having to compulsorily purchase people’s homes, which would have to be demolished to make the space needed for alternative schemes.

Campaigners believe other options, such as improved public transport, should be the first option.

The council itself has recently adopted a policy of trying to slash the numbers of people using cars for commuting to work and the ‘school run’.

Consultations will go on through much of March, with the results being used to draw up the next report to the council.