A CONTROVERSIAL spine road is “almost certain” to cut through a cherished meadow in Middlesbrough despite ardent protests to scrap the route. 

Stainsby country park and a north-south road planned east of the A19 have drawn ire from green campaigners – with more than 450 people signing a petition against the route. 

But Middlesbrough leaders have conceded it’s very likely the road will cut through Mandale Meadow – with one senior councillor saying there is nothing they can do to stop it. 

A total of 1,670 homes have been earmarked for the “country park” on almost 350 acres in west Middlesbrough.

A promise of 20,000 extra trees, public orchards, cycleways, a community hub and new sports pitches are part of the vision. 

The plan at Brookfield has been around for a number of years and the north-south spine road, also known as the Stainton Way Western Extension, has been in the borough’s Local Plan since 2014.

A consultation on the country park was launched by authority leaders at the start of this month – with a promise to “listen” to concerns about the 30mph road. 

However, Cllr Ashley Waters, executive member for regeneration, told a meeting on Thursday there was very little leaders could do about it (February 11). 

Darlington and Stockton Times:

He said: “It is very likely there will be a road through Mandale Meadow.  “The consultation is with regards to the housing and the development of Stainsby.

“Whether Stainsby is built or not, there will likely be a road through Mandale Meadow because there are pinch points right across Middlesbrough. 

"Highways England has stipulated that as part of the local plan Labour introduced in 2014 they would have to build the road.

“There is no way out of that and no way around that.”

“Frustration and disappointment”

Darlington and Stockton Times:

The “primary route” in the masterplan is set to wind its way from Jack Simon Way to Mandale Road/Acklam Road in the north.

No fewer than 462 people have signed a petition against the road affecting Mandale Meadow. 

It’s northern exit point has also drawn criticism from Thornaby’s mayor Steve Walmsley – who fears the town will bear the brunt of thousands of cars heading north towards the A19 and A66. 

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Deputy mayor Cllr Antony High had indicated his opposition to the spine road when the new Stainsby master plan was brought back. 

But the member for Ayresome shared his “frustration and disappointment” on social media this week – saying the road “will be happening”. 

He added: “This road is almost certain to be set as advised in the proposal, regardless of the current consultation, as it is a legal and mandatory requirement. 

“The consultation will take on suggestions – but it is evident that all other physical and financially viable options have been explored and this approach has been led by a national specialist for highways developments.”

Cllr High said the council had been “forced” to carry forward decisions made and set within the 2014 Local Plan – before laying the blame on past administrations. 

He added: “I am really sorry that I can’t move my challenge any further – please know that I have done all I can from my position.”

Blame game

The 2014 Local Plan earmarked a 1,670 home country park at Brookfield with a linking spine road to be completed by 2025.

Chiefs fear developers would mount legal challenges against the council if the spine road is dropped.

Cash deals, known as Section 106 agreements, earmarked money for the route in return for planning permission.

Cllr High has warned this money may have to be handed back if the road is stopped. 

A pledge to pause building on green spaces across the town won votes for Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston and a raft of independents during the 2019 local elections. 

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Martyn Walker, founder member of campaign group Greenstuff, mounted fresh opposition to the spine road when it was brought to light in the latest Stainsby masterplan. 

He suggested a loop for the country park would be better, rather than a relief road carrying thousands of cars a day.  He had little sympathy for councillors when it came to the spine road going ahead.

Mr Walker said: “It’s all a blame game at the moment. 

“It’s all about what Labour did. 

“Well Labour aren’t in power now – the people in power now were voted in because they said they weren’t going to be like Labour and were going to protect green spaces.”

No value in consultation

The campaigner said he understood there could be legal challenges if no road went ahead – but he believed it was now about leaders “following through on their word”. 

“This is about people doing what they promised to do,” he added.

“I also think it’s appalling that there is a consultation which has no real consultation value in it.

“It’s just a play on words when it’s said the road is coming halfway through an active consultation.”

Council chiefs have pointed to the 100 homes earmarked for Mandale Meadow which were removed in the fresh Stainsby masterplan. 

But Mr Walker said Greenstuff wasn’t just protesting against a road and the 100 homes.

“We were protesting against spoiling that area of land,” he added.

“To me, if you’re going to put that road through it, you might as well just build the houses, cover it all in concrete and make it into a car park.

“The end result is the same – you’ve ruined the area.”

“Nothing we can do”

Cllr High revealed the council had explored other ways of delivering the north-south spine road – including a route crossing the A19. 

But he added these options had been rejected for being “undeliverable, financially prohibitive or both”. 

Cllr Waters told the overview and scrutiny board it was “very, very likely that the road would go through” – and that the consultation was “for the housing development”. 

He said: “It is devastating and it is an area of Middlesbrough which is loved.  “But it’s there in law in the 2014 Local Plan – and there is nothing we can do with regards to that.

“Antony High has fought tooth and nail to make sure there isn’t a road built through there. 

“Every other option has been explored.

“I know it’s devastating but as an executive there is nothing we can do – there is not an answer to “what else can we do”.

“As other developments across Middlesbrough have been built, this road had to go in to alleviate those pinch points.”

Despite the opposition, the spine road isn’t without its supporters. 

Cllr David Coupe, member for Stainton and Thornton, told the scrutiny meeting of his frustration with heavy traffic backing up on Low Lane. 

He hoped the road would go ahead to ease pressure on surrounding south Middlesbrough routes and reduce the number of houses needed elsewhere.

“The amount of traffic which uses those roads is horrendous,” added Cllr Coupe. 

The consultation on the Stainsby country park is open until March 1.