A £5million improvement project to ease traffic congestion at junctions on Sleaford’s A17 bypass are being challenged as a mere ‘sticking plaster’by the town’s Mayor.
Detailed proposals for upgrades to Holdingham Roundabout and the A153 junction with the A17 next to Sleaford Rugby Club have been revealed by the county council with work potentially beginning within a year, if approved.
Mayor of Sleaford, Coun Grenville Jackson, who is also a Sleaford Holdingham Ward district councillor for North Kesteven who lives close to the roundabout, says the works fall short of what is really needed.
The county council claims the nine-month, £5m improvement project will ease congestion and improve safety at Holdingham Roundabout and the Sleaford Rugby Club junction by increasing capacity and improving traffic flow in all directions.
Coun Richard Davies, Executive Member for Highways and Transport, said: “Traffic on both Holdingham Roundabout and at the Sleaford Rugby Club junction experience congestion at various times throughout the day, making it difficult for drivers to properly plan their journeys. We’ve carried out a number of traffic surveys looking into how we could ease some of that congestion as the number of vehicles on the road continues to grow each year. A combination of adding new lanes and installing traffic signals is the most cost-effective and beneficial solution.”
But Coun Jackson responded: “Improvements to both these junctions are long overdue, but are the proposals just a sticking plaster exercise? The Rugby Club junction would, in my opinion, have been better as a roundabout.
“This would have the effect of slowing down traffic along the A153 as well as allowing easier egress from the A17 sliproad. Traffic lights will stop movement altogether and may still cause queues on the slip road, off the A17. I guess traffic lights are the cheaper option and, whilst not ideal, would be an improvement on what we have at present.”
He said with increased traffic flow predicted, the proposals for Holdingham would not solve the issue and instead proposed a flyover junction.
Coun Jackson says the money involved in carrying out the proposed work for the two busiest junctions on Sleaford’s A17 bypass would be better spent on ‘future proofing’, even if the authority has to wait for additional funds to become available, rather than create an “even more complex junction” at Holdingham.
Coun Jackson said: “Let’s face it, a lot of locals find this roundabout too difficult as it is, without adding extra lanes and sliproads. The new housing at Holdingham Mead is beginning to add extra traffic leaving Sleaford onto this roundabout and the new housing planned for the Sleaford West Urban Extention will also create a huge increase in traffic volume on the A15 north towards Holdingham.
“Traffic trying to enter Sleaford from the roundabout frequently backs up blocking the roundabout, whilst traffic leaving Sleaford frequently queues back to Tesco.”
He required “joined up thinking” rather than isolated ideas. “Clearly a flyover junction will be more expensive but spending the available resources on a far from satisfactory solution is false economy and make minimal improvements to traffic flow,” he said.
He said the A17 needs upgrading from Holdingham through to Newark as a permanent solution that will bring improvements to the economy of the whole area.
The proposed highway improvements involve:
○ Additional lanes on all five approaches to Holdingham Roundabout, with an additional lane on the roundabout itself to improve flow capacity
○ Traffic signals at Holdingham Roundabout on the A17 dual carriageway approach and the A15 western bypass approach with preparations for additional lights
○ New lanes and traffic signals on all approaches to the A17/A153 junction
In a report to county councillors, officers explain morning rush hour sees traffic queue back from the Rugby Club junction onto the A17 due to lack of opportunities to turn out into the stream of traffic, resulting in driver frustration and 14 reportable accidents during the last three years. They state that traffic modelling work demonstrates lights and extra lanes will prevent any queuing back onto the A17 and reduce accidents.
Coun Davies added: “Work on the rugby club junction is expected to start in April 2020 and is likely to last for three months. Once complete, we’ll move onto Holdingham Roundabout, with a view to completing the entire job by Christmas 2020.”
Drivers should expect lane closures, temporary traffic lights and overnight closures.
The proposed scheme will be discussed at the county council’s Highways and Transport Scrutiny Committee on March 11, with final approval by executive councillors later.
The scheme would be funded by the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership through a £2m Single Local Growth Fund grant, £250,000 from North Kesteven District Council, £2,549,500 from Lincolnshire County Council including Section 106 developer contributions and a £373,000 Integrated Transport Grant and Section 106 contributions.
Ursula Lidbetter, chairman of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said the Sleaford Growth Project seeks to bring together a package of projects over three distinct phases. The initial infrastructure phase will enable over 2,000 new jobs and around 1,700 new homes, it is stated.