A PUBLIC consultation has opened today on proposals to realign the notorious Kex Gill stretch of the A59.

A new road to bypass the section subject to landslides has been narrowed down to four possible routes and is predicted to cost between £33 million and £40 million.

The A59 is an important trans-Pennine route and a vital link between Harrogate and Skipton.

But the land above Kex Gill near Blubberhouses has a long history of instability and frequent landslides, the most recent in January last year which led to the road being closed for eight weeks, with users diverted through Otley and Ilkley.

Realigning the road is part of North Yorkshire County Council's strategic transport plan to improve east to west connections between the east coast and the Humber ports and Lancashire.

The consultation, focusing on the four routes, will include a drop in session at Skipton Town Hall on September 21 and will run until the end of next month.

Skipton and Ripon MP Julian Smith, said: “I am delighted that this project is moving to the next stage. I would encourage every interested user of the A59 to contribute to the consultation. This stretch of road is vital to the local area and as a trans-Pennine route for freight and other users. I stand ready to assist North Yorkshire County Council to ensure they are given the fullest support from central government.”

County Councillor Don Mackenzie, executive member for highways, said: “The A59 provides a vital link between the east and west of the region through North Yorkshire. Its reliability is crucial for the economic growth of our county as well as the convenience and safety of commuters, visitors and residents. The consultation will help us to determine the route that most improves the resilience of the A59, along with improved safety and increased reliability of journey times for road users while maintaining the landscape, ecological and historical value of the surrounding area.”

Fellow county councillor, Stanley Lumley, local member and a member of the Kex Gill steering group, said: “This cross-county route is very important for business and tourism and vital to our economy. Kex Gill has always been a challenge in its current form, narrow and twisting, especially for large vehicles. Whenever the road has to close there is significant impact on businesses along the route and, I suspect, communities that link with the road. The land stability will not improve, so investing more in the existing road is not a cost-effective option. It is fantastic news that the government recognises the importance of this new route. I understand the importance of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Site of Special Scientific Interest, but it is imperative this new route goes ahead.”

The consultation and details of all the routes are available online: northyorks.gov.uk/kexgill from Monday.

A public engagement meeting is due to take place at Skipton Town Hall on Thursday, September 21 between 10am and 2pm, and between 3pm and 8pm.

Meeting will also be held at St Peter's Church Hall, Harrogate, on Friday, September 22, and at Norwood Social Hall, Washburn, near Otley, on Saturday, September 23 between 9.30am and 3pm. Paper copies of the consultation and related material and available on request: email LTP@northyorks.gov.uk, call 01609 780780 or write to Transport Planning, BES, County Hall, Northallerton, DL7 8AD.