NATIONAL conservation bodies have raised concerns over a £60m scheme to improve safety on a major cross-Pennine route which has repeatedly been hit by landslips.

The RSPB and Natural England have warned North Yorkshire County Council its plan to build a 3.9km-long new section of the A59 at Kex Gill could cause significant damage to endangered wildlife and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

While the authority is still awaiting a decision over Government funding to realign the road away from the area which has seen numerous landslips and subsequent road closures, its planning committee will on Tuesday consider whether to approve the project.

Documents submitted by Natural England state without appropriate mitigation, the proposal could have an adverse effect on the integrity of North Pennines Special Area of Conservation, damage or destroy the interest features on West Nidderdale, Barden and Blubberhouses Moors SSSI and have a significant impact on Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

A Natural England spokesman said while welcoming measures to reduce the impact upon landscape character it was concerned over “major adverse impact” in local character area, “significant visual impact”, loss of tranquillity and a major increase in noise across high moorland.

Meanwhile, the RSPB has emphasised it has “concerns as to the appropriateness of the proposed mitigation in relation to the scale of the impact”.

The conservation charity has concluded Birds of Conservation Concern, such as the red-listed curlew, golden plover and lapwing and the amber-listed oystercatcher, redshank and snipe could be affected through disturbance and displacement.

However, an officers’ report to the meeting states planners believe a series of measures to mitigate the landscape, visual and environmental impacts would see any adverse impacts “outweighed when considered against the proposal’s strategic importance in both regional and national transport connectivity and improvements in the resilience of the local, regional and national economy…”

It states: “The scale and nature of this proposal means that a range of impacts are inevitable. Very rarely are developments entirely without harm, or entirely without benefit.

“In this particular instance, the ‘do nothing’ approach cannot be sustained any longer, due to the risk of further continued and perhaps worse landslip events in the future.”

Recommending approval, planners also highlighted a pledge to ensure net biodiversity gains from the scheme and off-site landscaping as “satisfactory compensation for the impacts”, alongside an off-site compensation fund of £594,000.