Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
A Calverley & Farsley councillor has criticised the planning of road improvement schemes around the city, claiming he has “lost confidence in the council’s ability to co-ordinate”.
Work being coordinated by Leeds City Council is expected to see around £20m of road improvements at busy Dawsons Corner.
But the roadworks, expected to last well into next year, are beginning to cause traffic congestion on the major Leeds-to-Bradford thoroughfare, leading to criticism from one of the council Labour administration’s biggest opponents.
“Traffic congestion is very bad,” said leader of the Leeds City Council Conservatives group Coun Andrew Carter. “There seems to be a woeful lack of planning on a lot of these highways schemes. Even down to having to cone off the carriageway when grass cutting is carried out.
“Grass cutting in Leeds has been shambolic to say the least. It was left too late on the ring road, some junctions’ visibility was compromised because the grass was so high.
“This coincides with the interminable Openreach work and gas works – in the days of modern era of swift communication, it staggers me that this stuff can’t be accommodated in a more efficient fashion, you get the impression that some people in authority don’t give a damn.
“It causes pollution and affects the economy, which we can little afford. The lack of planning is quite horrendous – a whole series of delays on the road network Dawson’s corner is a classic example.”
The £20m Dawson’s Corner scheme will reputedly provide a “fully remodelled and enlarged signalised junction”, as well as improved cycling and walking facilities. It is expected to be completed in 2023.
It is hoped that the improvements will eventually reduce peak hour bus delays at the junction, reduce air pollution caused by standing traffic, and to increase capacity at New Pudsey station park and ride site.
Coun Carter, however, believes more planning is needed to go into co-ordinating projects in the west of Leeds, adding:
“We seem to lurch from one scheme to another, interminably causing traffic delays on what is already a congested junction which at peak times is over capacity.
“There is going to be a major junction improvement scheme there over the next 18 months. A lot of these things should be rolled up into one and get the congestion over and done with, and not to lurch from one to another.
“You have got the City Connect issues, where work is progressing from Armley onwards, then we have got the large capital scheme – the roundabout itself. I have urged them for 18 months to co-ordinate things in a more efficient manner. Let’s not do works one after the other when we could combine them in one programme.
“Whatever the highways department say, there will be wasted resources and some work will be disrupted because of additional work. I have lost confidence in the council’s ability to properly coordinate.”
UPDATED 24/8/21: A Leeds City Council spokesperson rebutted Cllr Carter’s accusations and said:
“An incredible amount of detailed planning goes into coordinating all the infrastructure, improvements and utilities work across Leeds’ roads network to minimise disruption. While work progresses to secure the funding for the Dawson’s Corner junction improvements, other essential works needed to be completed in the meantime.
“Wherever possible, work is undertaken off peak, overnight, at weekends or during school summer holidays. Some very significant schemes have been completed in the last 18 months when traffic flows were much reduced.
“Corridor bus improvement schemes such as the A647 Stanningley Road, will benefit all users in the longer term but construction timing is dependent on a number of complex deadlines and funding limitations from government. Every year over 26,000 permits for maintenance works and approximately 900 road closures are coordinated by our experienced and dedicated team to reduce impact on Leeds residents and road users.”