The county council recently announced a route for a new road to run from the north-eastern edge of Chesterfield to the north of Brimington, ending at Staveley. At first sight, this scheme might be mistaken for a revival of the age-old plans for a bypass to relieve Brimington and Staveley of through traffic, but it’s not.
The idea of a bypass was first suggested by C.P. Markham in the early 1920s. He suggested that a motor road be built along the bed of the then disused Chesterfield Canal between Chesterfield and Staveley.
Congestion on the A619 between Chesterfield and Staveley has got incomparably worse since Markham’s day, and especially since the opening of the Derbyshire section of the M1 in 1967, for which the road provides a very unsatisfactory means of access to Junction 30 and all points north. Traffic on this busy road is frequently stationary in Brimington and Staveley, with consequent damage to the air quality in both places.
It has been widely agreed for many years that a new route to and from the motorway is needed, comparable to the A617 dual carriageway between the Horns Bridge roundabout and Junction 29, which has removed most through traffic from the old road through Hasland, as well as making Heath a much pleasanter place to live.
In case anyone has been deluded by press reports into thinking that what the county council proposes between Chesterfield and Staveley is a high-speed link to the motorway, or that it will relieve Brimington and Staveley of congestion, they should look carefully at the drawings and text currently displayed on the county council website. There they will find that the new road is not called a bypass, but the ‘Chesterfield to Staveley Regeneration Route’. It will not be a four-lane dual carriageway with a 70 mph speed limit, like the A617, but a single-carriageway road with a 40 or 50 mph speed limit, pedestrian footpaths on both sides, and a two-way cycle track down one side.
The new road will start at the roundabout near Sainsbury’s store and, skirting the edge of the large housing estate currently being built there, will run to a junction with Brimington Road North and Station Road at the northern end of Whittington Moor. It will then follow the Rother valley round the north of Brimington and Hollingwood, with a junction on Works Road to provide access to Barrow Hill, and will end at Hall Lane in Staveley. From there drivers heading for the M1 will be able either to follow the existing A619 to Junction 30 or, if they like exploring uncharted territory, take the Staveley Northern Loop Road which leads to Junction 29a.
For those who do not know it (which must be at least 90 per cent of the local population), this is the road you cross on a overbridge as you leave Staveley on the present A619 going towards Norbriggs, which has very few vehicles on it. It was built by the county council several years ago but no-one has ever explained why.
The county council claims that the new road will bring several benefits. It will provide a more efficient route from the A61 to the M1; improve local journeys and the reliability of bus services between Chesterfield and Staveley by removing traffic (presumably meaning longer distance traffic) from the A619; and improve air quality, especially around the Brimington one-way system. The first of these is clearly true, although the benefits will be far less than would be achieved if the road was built as a four-lane dual carriageway intended to provide better access to the motorway. How far the second and third will be achieved will depend on how far local people use the new road in preference to the present A619.
For a journey from Staveley to Chesterfield, for example, the new road probably will be quicker, but for journeys from Brimington to either Chesterfield or Staveley the benefit is less obvious. Most crucially, as the county council states, the new road will facilitate the building of new houses and ‘employment growth’ (in other words the building of new factories and offices – employment does not ‘grow’ alongside a road of its own accord, like a grass verge) on brownfield sites to the north of Brimington and Hollingwood, as proposed in the Chesterfield Local Plan.
This is the most important point, which reveals the true thinking behind the new road. This road is not being built principally to bypass a congested section of the A619 or to provide better access from Chesterfield to the M1 for northbound traffic. It is being built to open up for development land on the floor of the Rother valley which at present is either derelict former industrial land or low-grade farmland. There is nothing necessarily wrong with doing this, but the purpose should be made explicit and the county council should not pretend that Brimington and Staveley are finally to get the bypass that Charlie Markham first proposed a century ago.
To take part in the county council’s consultation on the proposal visit the virtual consultation site before it closes on 10 April 2022.