The A6-MARR Airport Road is still several months away from its delayed completion date of late summer 2018, but it is already being used to drive through a different road – the Hazel Grove-M60 (aka Stockport North-South) Bypass.
The Airport Road (pictured above) was given planning approval only to link the A6 at Hazel Grove to the M56 at the Airport. This is no mere technicality. If the road is later joined up to a bypass to the M60 at Bredbury, there will be heavier traffic on the Airport Road itself. This will affect the viability of some of its traffic signal-controlled junctions: they will become bunged up.
Although the Airport Road was only presented for approval as a standalone scheme, this was always a Trojan horse. The route has been specifically chosen to provide a connection near Hazel Grove to an extension to the M60. The Airport Road has been driven through ancient woodland at Carr Wood to make that connection possible.
The Handforth folly
Building one road as a first instalment for another road is not new. Twenty years ago the Woodford-Heald Green section of the Airport Road was built in advance of the Government cancelling the road as a waste of money. The resulting folly was on public display for 20 years.
As a project in need of £290 million-worth of finishing off, the Airport Road was given part-funding in 2008 but cancelled again in 2010. It was resuscitated by Chancellor George Osborne a year later specifically to link to Airport City business park.
Jam for some
The Airport Road has been promoted as a cure for congestion on the A6. As a stand-alone project the road was forecast to reduce traffic on parts of the A6 north of Hazel Grove by between 14% and 28%; the largest figure of around 50% is achieved only at the southern tip of Hazel Grove.
South of Hazel Grove the reverse happens: traffic is expected to increase out to Disley by 30% in places, directly due to the Airport Road. Even larger overall increases in traffic are forecast due to other factors. At New Mills the increase is put at 34%.
A disposable promise
The planning report for the Airport Road (A6-MARR) conceded that a 30% increase in traffic south of Hazel Grove was unacceptable. The already illegal concentration of traffic fumes in Disley forced the road’s promoters to respond. Mitigation measures were promised for both High Lane and Disley to modify the increase in traffic to 15% – still bad for an already bunged-up road.
The mitigation would be designed to slow traffic in order to discourage increased use of the A6 – though the road is already slow because of congestion. The credibility of the mitigation quickly evaporated. A report by Air Quality Consultants for the PAULA campaign group says: “It is unlikely that any local mitigation measures are available that would reduce concentrations in Disley to below the air quality objectives.”
Could Stockport Council get away with pumping up traffic and pollution through Disley and High Lane twice, by extending the Airport Road up to Bredbury? The recent Business Case for the A6-M60 Bypass entirely ignored Disley but did admit that the A6 south of Hazel Grove would experience even heavier traffic if the Bypass is built..