Whitby is set for three months of traffic chaos according to residents and councillors as works get under way to overhaul the key Mayfield Road junction.
Contractors will move on site on Monday to start the £700,000 upgrade which features a new junction layout, installation of an up-to-date “intelligent” signalling system which can detect vehicles and pedestrians, new traffic islands and re-located pelican crossings.
As works progress a temporary traffic light system will be put into operation but no diversions are planned to re-route traffic around the junction which is set to remain open throughout.
Despite North Yorkshire County Council giving assurances that works will be completed by July 22, and in time for the school holiday period, there are fears over the effects the programme will have on day to day life for residents and businesses with the town’s road infrastructure being branded “a shambles”.
Ian Dixon said: “I have lived on the Fishburn for 26 years and this is not going to make one bit of difference. It is typical of highways, they don’t listen to locals and don’t see what is actually happening. The whole plan of this town is a shambles.”
Sandra Smith also lives on the estate. She added: “This could be disastrous for Whitby business at a growing peak time. There is no doubt word gets out pretty quickly that Whitby will be very difficult to get in to, particularly at weekends.
“Apparently the Good Friday traffic queue went to the Egton turn off caused by bridge openings, synchronising and back up of traffic. This could happen at least three times over the next three months.”
At a meeting of Whitby Town Council on Tuesday night, attended by highways representatives, concerns were raised about the position of the filter lane for the right turn into Waterstead Drive, confusion over who has priority for the right turn from Propsect Hill onto Mayfield Road and the extra traffic that already uses the Fishburn estate and Waterstead Lane as a shortcut when town is busy and in particular to avoid delays caused when the swing bridge opens.
Labour Cllr Rob Barnett said: “It is strange that you should say disruption will be minimal, as a PR excercise that doesn’t work for me.
“I don’t know what minimal means but have you any plans for the bank holidays, we have just had one that was relatively chaotic and a Park and Ride that didn’t work properly.”
The county council has said that it has wanted to make improvements to the junction for several years but couldn’t commit the capital due to government funding cuts.
However, Sirius Minerals, the firm behind the potash mine plans, will pay £400,000 towards it following a deal struck as part of its planning permission conditions. A further £200,000 is coming from other similar agreements and the county council will pay £86, 507.
County Councillor Joe Plant said: “This improvement has been long awaited by Whitby’s residents, visitors and road users. The junction has increasingly become unfit for purpose and a significant safety issue for pedestrians.
“The offer by Sirius Minerals to bring about these improvements early is therefore very welcome. It will make a big difference to traffic flow in the town and crucially the work will be completed before the busy summer season starts.”