On Tuesday, Wakefield Council’s cabinet voted through the Newton Bar junction enlargement scheme.
Stuart Boothman from Just Transition Wakefield expressed the group’s disappointment through the following statement.
We are deeply disappointed by the decision and fear the resulting climate impacts.
We understand the difficulties the council are in, caught between budgets, campaigners, contractors and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. However, we disagree with the decision.
We are not convinced by the predictions that congestion will be eased. This is partly because of the multiple sets of traffic lights planned for the new junction, but mainly because much of the queuing is caused by congestion on Leeds Road and Wentworth Street as traffic queues into the city. There are other, more cost-effective ways to reduce traffic congestion. Further, if traffic flow does improve, road capacity and vehicle speeds will increase, increasing carbon emissions.
We believe that the real blame for this situation lies with the Combined Authority. The Mayoral Authority was asked to stop the scheme and reinvest in a smaller scheme focused on bus, pedestrian and cycle movement through the junction, but they blanked our letters. We still feel that Wakefield Council could have done more to explore this option. Whilst we welcome the basic crossing facilities, they were designed to now outdated standards and will need further updating before 2030, at further expense. This scheme is poor value for the public purse whichever pot the money is drawn from.
We have always been clear that all public authorities – councils and combined authorities – need to reassess historic policies, programmes and projects to ensure they are fit for the future as we tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies. This is simply not happening in West Yorkshire. We cannot continue to encourage traffic growth. We cannot wring our hands at rising emissions without recognising where our own actions have caused them.
We welcome Cllr Isherwood’s intervention to request relocation of the existing trees into the planned wildlife area, and we welcome Cllr Hemingway’s support for that request. This will speed up nature’s establishment on the site, particularly the all important soil life.
We look forward to working with Wakefield Council on their transport strategy to try to avoid such climate incompatible schemes in future, and we will continue to work with campaigners across West Yorkshire to drive change at county level through the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.