What impact will the new £56 million Great Yorkshire Way have on Doncaster?

PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 July 2016

The sweep of the Great Yorkshire Way

The sweep of the Great Yorkshire Way

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As traffic begins to flow on the Great Yorkshire Way, Jo Haywood looks at its impact on the future of Doncaster

Opening of the Great Yorkshire WayOpening of the Great Yorkshire Way

What difference can a three-mile stretch of road really make? It’s just gravel and concrete and asphalt. But for Doncaster, it’s the gateway to a bright future. The new £56million Great Yorkshire Way, a three-mile stretch linking traffic from the south to junction 3 of the M18, has been ten years in the making but looks set to have a positive impact on Doncaster and the greater South Yorkshire region for many years to come.

It’s estimated it will trigger £1.7bn of private sector investment, the creation of 20,000 new jobs and 5,000 new homes. As a bonus, it’s already cut journey times to Doncaster Sheffield Airport – the UK’s fastest growing airport – bringing an extra million potential passengers to within a 60-minute drive; has facilitated the launch of the £400m iPort business hub; and has been a major factor in the development of 1,200 new homes at Torne Park on the regenerated former Rossington Colliery site.

It seems to be good news all the way for Doncaster, and elected mayor Ros Jones couldn’t be happier.

‘The long term benefits of this road will be unbelievable,’ she said. ‘It will attract significant private sector investment, will allow the airport to continue growing and will bring more jobs and more houses to the town. It’s a real catalyst for economic growth.

Potteric Carr Nature Reserve, Doncaster Photo AlamyPotteric Carr Nature Reserve, Doncaster Photo Alamy

‘The Great Yorkshire Way is, however, just one of the many ways we’re driving the borough and the town forward. There are more people in work and we’ve built more houses in the last year than we have done in the previous 15 years. So, things are most definitely moving in the right direction.’

Dan Fell, CEO of Doncaster Chamber of Commerce, which represents 700 businesses, agreed that the new road is far more than just three miles of Tarmac.

‘The reality is that it’s very important indeed, not just for Doncaster but for the wider region,’ he said. ‘It enables quick expansion at the airport in terms of both passenger numbers and in the often overlooked area of freight, and also unlocks a vital corridor adjacent to the M18 that offers immense opportunities in terms of jobs, investment, innovation and homes.

‘It’s also given residents the unexpected bonus of freeing up town centre traffic. I’m not sure how the logistics work, but people living miles away from the new road are finding it easier to get to work.’

Doncaster High StreetDoncaster High Street

The innovative road scheme was project-managed by Doncaster Council and delivered via a unique public/private partnership with businesses Peel Group, Verdion and Harworth Estates, which contributed £34m.

Work started in October 2013 and, since then, as well as the road itself, six new bridges have been built, including an impressive 12m-high structure to carry the road over the East Coast Main Line on embankments created using a million tonnes of material from the old colliery spoil heap.

It might not be a beautiful monument or an architecturally significant masterpiece, but Doncaster’s new road is important to local people.

Ros, who was born in Askern where her dad worked at the local colliery, was elected in May 2013 after seven years as a local ward councillor and 30 years in the public sector as an accountant and senior manager. So, she knows her home town and she knows what the new road means.

‘It’s a vital piece of the jigsaw,’ she said, ‘because, ultimately, we need to show our young people there are viable, valuable opportunities here in their home town and that they don’t have to leave to have the job of their dreams.’

Next on the development agenda is the town centre. At the moment, Doncaster is suffering from what might be termed ‘the doughnut effect’, with fast-growing, innovative facilities springing up at a rate of knots in an outer circle while the centre remains comparatively stagnant.

‘The town centre has issues,’ said Dan. ‘And it’s a matter of civic pride that we sort it out.

‘It’s definitely our next area for development. We have aspirations for our railway station, so we can make a positive first impression on arrival. And we want to add vibrancy by bringing students into the town centre from the new rail college (the National College for High Speed Rail is to be built at Lakeside, catering for more than a thousand students) and by strategically placing the new University Technical College centrally.’

There is obviously still work to be done but, according to Dan, the mood in the business community is pretty bullish.

‘Despite the recession, which had a massive effect, a spate of good stories in Doncaster helped raise our game,’ he said. ‘The racecourse, rail port, iPort, Frenchgate, a new theatre, our award-winning market, the high speed rail college (the National College for High Speed Rail is to be built at Lakeside, catering for more than a thousand students); it all paints a very rich picture of development.

‘You get a good sense of the mood of the town when you talk to people at dinners and meeting and, generally, that mood is very upbeat.’

Doncaster’s current buoyancy and future prospects as a business, air and rail travel hub are an obvious sense of pride for locals – and a fitting rebuttal for any negativity that has come its way in the past.

‘We’re working to make Doncaster a town for the 21st century,’ said Ros. ‘We have to grow and change and move with the times. In the not too distant future, I’d like to see our current offering replaced with a range of vibrant sectors for living, shopping, learning and working.’

And what about ‘playing’? Well, that will soon be added to the town’s already impressive CV as Doncaster becomes an international sporting venue, thanks to an ambitious development at Rossington Hall, a late 18th century estate just three miles from the airport.

Once a training college for missionary priests and a school for children with learning difficulties, the 250-acre estate has been a highly successful wedding venue since 2012.

Now, in an interesting twist, it’s about to become a prime player in golf, with plans lodged for it to be transformed into an official European Tour destination, tournament venue and resort.

The development, already lined up to host at least three European Tour tournaments in the next ten years, will see the creation of an 18-hole championship course designed by former Ryder Cup and European Tour star Neil Coles.

But with a new international sports venue to add to its thriving airport, rapidly expanding business base, house-building boom and ambitious plans to revamp its retail centre, is it perhaps time that Doncaster pushed to move up a league from town to city?

‘City status is a nice badge of honour,’ said Dan. ‘But I think it’s more important that Doncaster has all the characteristics of a city, with or without the status. We can have the confidence and facilities of a city while still remaining a town.’

For Ros, though, the issue is less philosophical.

‘We will become a city one day,’ she said. ‘We have to build on the strengths we already have. And, in the meantime, ensure all our developments are city-quality.

‘We want city-quality jobs and homes and opportunities because this is how you create a vibrant, forward-thinking city. There’s obviously a lot more to do. But we are moving in the right direction.’

Thanks, in no small part, to a three-mile stretch of road.

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