Controversial ring road plan passes last hurdle as council leader accepts “bad decision”
A controversial ring road scheme on an urban park in Barnsley has been given the final go-ahead by councillors even though the authority’s political leader accepted the move was “a bad decision”.
Barnsley Council has been involved in wrangles with objectors over plans to put a gyratory scheme on Penny Pie Park, between the M1 and town centre, since the proposals were announced last summer.
All alternatives have been investigated and rejected as more problematic than the current plan, which will see a one way system installed around the perimeter of the park, near the Dodworth Road crossroads, to ease a congestion bottleneck.
Planning permission for the work has already been granted and members of the council’s ruling Cabinet have now agreed to transfer the land needed from public open space to highways use, a legal formality which was needed to allow work to commence.
Although the Cabinet approved the scheme, recommended by the authority’s officers, council leader Sir Steve Houghton acknowledged the weight to resistance to the proposals and told a meeting: “I do accept, members accept and the council accepts that this is a bad decision. There are arguments on both sides.
“We recognise there are strong objections from some residents. Their protests have been fully recognised. These are never easy decisions,” he said.
The council have been working with the Friends of Penny Pie Park group to try to find the best way forwards with details of the design, to have the minimum impact on the area and to produce the maximum benefits from mitigation measures, including tree planting and improving other play facilities in the immediate area, he said.
“We have to be cognisant to the congestion issues in that area and the impact on the M1 and the economic benefits, so on and so forth.
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“Hopefully, the impact on trees will be mitigated and we will look at public access for residents and we will keep doing that, going forwards. Overall, this has been a difficult decision here for us today. We have to take the decision on balance,” he said.
Barnsley Council decided to act because of growing traffic congestion around the crossroads, with projections suggesting traffic would begin to back up onto the M1 at peak times in a few years if no action was taken.
The density of building in the area left the council with few viable options other than encroaching on the park, however.
Alternatives such as introducing a wider one way ‘loop’ and trying to get more people out of cars and onto public transport were ruled out as impractical.
Protestors held an overnight vigil outside the Town Hall before the meeting took place.
The Save Penny Pie Park group has already said it will take legal advice, with the intention of taking the decision to judicial review.