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Widening of northern section of A1 approved

Words: Laura Edgar
Infrastructure construction / iStock-95396741

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has granted a development consent order (DCO) for the A1 Birtley to Coal House Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), the 100th application to be approved under the Planning Act 2008.

The decision was in line with the recommendation of the examining authority, the Planning Inspectorate.

The proposed development is in the north-east of England in the Gateshead Council area.  

According to the application form, Highways England sought consent for the widening of the southbound carriageway from three to four lanes and the widening of the northbound carriageway from two to three lanes (with an additional lane between junctions) between junction 67 (Coal House) and junction 65 (Birtley) of the A1.

The development will see a replacement bridge structure where the A1 crosses over the East Coast Main Line (ECML), 40 metres to the immediate south of the existing Allerdene Bridge structure, which would tie into the existing carriageways at junction 67 (Coal House) and north of junction 66 (Eighton Lodge).

The development also comprises:

  • Changes to signs and road markings between junction 67 (Coal House) and junction 65 (Birtley);
  • Replacing the existing North Dene footbridge between junction 66 (Eighton Lodge) and junction 65 (Birtley) to accommodate the widening of the A1; and
  • Diversion of utilities.

Three changes were made to the application during the examination period. Two non-material changes were made: one introduced design flexibility for the replacement Allerdene Bridge and the second provided flexibility for the road layout within the development to enable narrower lanes to be provided for a stretch of about 750 metres between the existing narrow lanes north of junction 67 across junction 67 itself.  

The third change was a material change that involved the inclusion of additional land at junction 67 for an extension to the previously proposed main site construction compound to be used for material stockpiling.

The section of the A1 in question experiences “significant congestion”, Shapps notes, and the development “would improve traffic flows and reduce driver delays”. Replacing Allerdene Bridge will improve the reliability of this section of the A1 too, avoiding the “likely need” for emergency maintenance of current structure.

The examining authority concluded that development would not affect the UK’s ability to comply with the air quality directive and that any air quality matters did not weigh significantly against the order being made. Shapps agreed.

Gateshead Council raised some concerns about the impact on the green belt, given that temporary structures would be located on it, and whether it constituted inappropriate development. Highways England provided further information and said it would seek “to avoid additional or unnecessary signs and to keep their physical height and scale as small as possible”. Highways England and the council agree that the development amounts to “inappropriate development but that there are very special circumstances to justify the development in the green belt which outweigh the limited harm identified”.

The  examining authority concluded that the benefits of the scheme, namely addressing existing congestion,  improving safety and promoting economic benefits for the region, “would outweigh the impacts it identified in relation to the construction and operation of the development”.  

The examining authority and the secretary of state agreed that any potential harm is outweighed by the benefits of the development, so Shapps granted development consent.

The decision letter and all other documents relating to the development can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website.

Image credit | iStock