Lincoln Eastern Bypass has a long history and has undergone many studies, re-designs and other stages. Below we attempt to provide a basic history of the bypass from local residents’ perspective.
- Nov 2009 – Plans for a dual carriageway scheme costing £140m were submitted to government for funding approval. These plans were rejected as unaffordable in the financial climate at the time. This scheme provided a bridge over the bypass for Hawthorn Road.
- Nov 2011 – New plans for a single carriageway bypass costing £90m were submitted to government for funding approval. These plans were approved with the government providing £50m funding with the rest paid for by Lincolnshire County Council. This scheme had removed the road bridge over the bypass for Hawthorn Road.
- Dec 2012 – A planning application for the bypass was submitted by Lincolnshire County Council. The purpose of the planning application was to allow the wider benefits and impacts of the bypass to be examined in detail and for local people to make comment on plans. Unfortunately these plans were not widely publicised and many local residents were not aware that the change from dual to single carriageway had also removed the road bridge carrying Hawthorn Road over the bypass.
- June 2013 – Lincolnshire County Council granted themselves planning permission for the bypass. Very little objection had been made during the planning process regarding closing Hawthorn Road. However this was mainly because the minimalist consultation carried out by LCC meant most residents affected by the closure were unaware of it. Most who had heard of the planning application for the bypass assumed it related to the change from dual carriageway to single carriageway and although preferring a dual carriageway were just happy the bypass was moving forwards.
- Nov 2013 – Lincolnshire CC published the Side Road and Compulsory Purchase Orders for the bypass. In basic terms this involves LCC asking the Secretary of State for Transport for legal authority to close roads and driveways affected by the bypass and to force those who own land over which the bypass passes to sell them land required by the bypass. This is the last practical chance for the public to object to a road before it is built.
- Jan 2014 – It was at this point that the proposed closure of Hawthorn Road became known to many local residents including the local parish councils. The general reaction by most was one of horror. A public meeting was rapidly organised by Reepham and Cherry Willingham Parish Councils in mid January 2014. The attendance was astounding with around 400 people attending. The village hall was standing room only with many more people having to be turned away. The meeting was attended by representatives of Lincolnshire County Council highway officers who answered questions on the issue for over 3 hours. Local residents were horrified that the only change offered by LCC was to provide a foot and cycle bridge for Hawthorn Road over the bypass. It was stated that a road bridge would cost £1m whereas a foot/cycle bridge would only cost £250,000. It was also pointed out that the footbridge crossed the bypass on the north side of Hawthorn Road whereas the cycleway was on the south side meaning everyone using it would have to cross Hawthorn Road in a dangerous location. Bearing in mind the bypass costs £90m overall local residents feel this saving is small compared with the amount of disruption to everyday life closing Hawthorn Road will bring. It was at this point that ourselves – a group of local residents – got together to campaign for LCC to correct what we strongly felt was a mistake and reinstate a full road bridge for Hawthorn Road to cross the bypass. A petition was started to gauge the strength of local feeling.
- Late Jan 2014 – The Hawthorn Road Action Group assisted by the local Parish Councils looked into how we could formally object to the closure of Hawthorn Road. Due to the inadequate public consultation when the planning application for the bypass was being considered the best chance of objecting was long gone expiring in mid 2013. The only remaining option was to object to the Side Road Order which LCC had applied for in Nov 2013. Objections were written and submitted to the Department for Transport to a very tight deadline. These objections caused the DfT to order a public Inquiry to look into the merits of the Side Road Orders. It is very important to understand that the Inquiry was a very narrow legal process which did not look into the pros and cons of the bypass as a whole or of closing Hawthorn. It did not even examine whether closing Hawthorn Road was a good idea. It was simply to examine that if Lincolnshire County Council were to close Hawthorn Road there would be a reasonably convenient and safe alternative route provided. It is simply not correct to regard this public inquiry as an exhaustive investigation into the merits of the bypass or of closing Hawthorn Road. This should have happened earlier in the process during the planning application.
- Feb 2014 – The public inquiry. At the Public Inquiry local Parish Councils, local residents, representatives from local schools and businesses gave evidence to the DfT Inspector. Many were unfamiliar with presenting evidence in this formal environment and put in considerable amounts of work researching, preparing and presenting evidence. LCC had hired one of the top highways barristers in the country to represent them at the Inquiry whereas most objectors had no professional or legal help. A full record of the Inquiry is provided in the Inspectors Report. A petition with 3500 signatures was presented to the inquiry and to Lincolnshire County Council.
- Jul 2014 – The Inspectors Decision. The Inspector sent her report to the Secretary of State for Transport on 30th April 2014. The Secretary of State then published his decision in July 2014. This decision was that the Inspector had recommended that the bypass should not proceed as currently planned as the cycle/footbridge provided at the last minute by LCC was unsafe. This was an aspect local people had raised repeatedly at the Inquiry as they felt the provision for pedestrians and cyclists was inadequate especially as many schoolchildren travelling between the Carlton Estate and Cherry Willingham/Reepham Schools made this journey on foot or by bike daily.
- Jul 2014 – LCC published revised proposals for the footbridge which made minor changes which were felt to be insignificantly different from the proposals rejected by the Inspector. These were objected to again and were withdrawn by LCC.
- Aug 2014 – Belatedly LCC finally consulted with local Parish Councils who said that whilst the only option which would be acceptable to villagers would be a road bridge if a non-motorised users (NMU) bridge is to be provided it should be on the south side of Hawthorn Road to connect in with the existing cycleway reducing the need for schoolchildren to cross Hawthorn Road at a dangerous point.
- Sep 2014 – New plans for an improved foot/cycle/horse or Non-Motorised User (NMU) bridge were published and a planning application made for this revised bridge. The cost of this new safer NMU bridge had increased to approx £500,000 resulting in a saving of only £0.5m on a scheme costing £90m.
- 6th Oct 2014 – The Planning Application for the new bridge was passed by 6 votes to 4 at a meeting of LCC planning committee. This was despite many councillors expressing a view that a road bridge for Hawthorn Road was the best option but the rules meant that they were unable to vote for such a bridge. Local MP Sir Edward Leigh – who supports our campaign – attended the planning meeting but was not allowed to speak on residents behalf.
- Oct 2014 – The only way that local residents can now object to the closure of Hawthorn Road is to object to new Side Road Order which was recently published. We have now stepped up our campaign locally to make as many local residents as possible aware of how to object – you may have seen our posters and banners. If successful this will trigger a new Public Inquiry at which a considerable amount of new evidence on the validity of closing Hawthorn Road can be presented to an independent Inspector.
- Nov 2014 – A public meeting was held in Cherry Willingham to update local residents on our Hawthorn Road Campaign and to advise those who wished to object to its closure on how to object. The turnout was huge with around 700 local resident filling the largest hall in the village with a second hall with a video link also full with standing room only. The meeting was well supported with Parish, District and County Councillors speaking in support of keeping Hawthorn Road open. Sir Edward Leigh MP our local MP closed the meeting giving local residents his full support in campaigning to keep Hawthorn Road open. Sir Edward has been a strong advocate for our campaign even asking questions in the House of Commons. A full report on the meeting including coverage by BBC Lincolnshire is available on the “Public Meeting November 2014” page.
- Dec 2014. We understand the DfT have received “several hundred” objection letters. It is now a case of waiting to see if a public inquiry will be held. In the meantime we are continuing to try and persuade LCC to change their mind and implement a road bridge without the expense of a public inquiry.