A series of meetings are taking place this week which could pave the way for one of the most ambitious road schemes in Lincolnshire’s history.
Business leaders will join leading councillors and representatives of various organisations to discuss ideas for a new Coastal Highway.
The project is designed to open up the Lincolnshire coast and the Wolds to hundreds of millions of pounds of new revenue and investment.
At the centre of the plan is a long-awaited upgrade of the A158 which forms the major link between Lincoln and Skegness.
Supporters of the campaign stress improved transport links will deliver a massive boost to the entire county in terms of investment, economic development, and new jobs.
The project is being led by Lincolnshire County Council, but has support from a number of key figures and organisations, including the region’s MPs.
The meetings will be held in Horncastle, Skegness, Wragby and Lincoln which are seen as key places along the route.
Although details are still emerging, it’s likely the A158 will be divided into separate projects including bypasses and sections of dual carriageway. The overall aim would be able to deliver quicker access to the coast – and the Lincolnshire Wolds.
Tourism alone is worth £584m a year to the district’s economy, but councillors and MPs believe that figure could be doubled by improving access.
Notorious ‘bottlenecks’ on the A158 in Wragby and Horncastle are seen as a major obstacle to regeneration, both on the coast and inland.
It is understood improvements could be targeted on Skegness. Sources suggest the final bill for the improvements could top £200m with Government assistance seen as vital.
Sources have confirmed informal talks have already been held with leading figures at Westminster.
Councillor Richard Davies, LCC’s executive member for highways, said: “We’ve now confirmed that the Lincolnshire Coastal Highway is made up of the A46 from west of Lincoln through to the A158 to Skegness, along with the A57 from the county boundary where it joins the A46 in Lincoln.
“Now that we’ve identified what the coastal highway is, we’ll be engaging with a number of councillors, businesses, organisations and groups in Horncastle, Skegness, Wragby and Lincoln to discuss the route and get their input on ways for improving it over time. The purpose of these engagement sessions is to identify a long-list of upgrades and improvements to sections of the identified route.
“Later in the year, we will prepare a shortlist of potential improvements from those. These projects will then be further investigated for feasibility. The final stage of the process will be creating an overall strategy for the corridor, ahead of carrying out improvements as and when funding becomes available.”
The county council says funding would be reviewed once a shortlist of potential improvements has been made. The authority adds money could come from a range of sources, including central Government, third-party contributions, and LCC capital funding.
Representatives from bus operators, the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership, the National Farmers’ Union, the Lincolnshire Coastal Destination BID, Lincoln BIG, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, Visit Lincolnshire/Chamber of Commerce, and the Freight Transport Association will attend the meetings.
A county council spokesman added: “We won’t know how the Coastal Highway would impact on current (economic) figures until further in the process when a shortlist of improvement works have been identified.”
East Lindsey District Council leader Coun Craig Leyland said: “We need to fully understand the potential benefits and issues if this is to progress. The potential is obvious but we need to listen to all voices for and against via this consultation. This is not just about Horncastle or the coast either. The upgrade could affect the whole Wolds economy as well.”