A GOVERNMENT minister is to decide whether a £70m proposal to re-route a major trans-Pennine road should go ahead after a global minerals firm urged him to scrutinise the scheme.

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick will consider calling in North Yorkshire County Council’s plan to build a new 3.9km stretch of the A59 near Kex Gill after numerous landslips hit the existing trunk road.

A meeting of the authority’s planning committee saw councillors unanimously agree the scheme should be passed, subject to the minister’s approval, despite there being potential for harm to the wider landscape and to the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The meeting heard the route to the north of the existing A59 near Blubberhouses would also potentially harm important local, national and international nature conservation sites through which the proposed road passes, as well as harming some heritage assets.

Alongside concerns for harm to species ranging from lamprey to golden plover, councillors were told heard claims that the road would threaten the future viability of the nationally important mineral deposit of silica sand within the Blubberhouse Moor Estate, which is owned by multinational Sibelco.

However, planning officers concluded the proposed development would not stop future mineral operations and councillors highlighted that the numerous nearby quarries could be mothballed indefinitely.

Nevertheless the meeting was told even with a range of mitigation measures, including the council providing almost £600,000 to be spent on environmental improvements in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there would be “a certain degree of residual impact, particularly with regard to noise and traffic”.

Councillors said they did recognise the environmental harm, but the cost of keeping the existing road open with the high likelihood of further landslips could not be ignored.

The meeting heard councillors emphasise the lack of an alternative route that would avoid an adverse impact on the environment and members agreed the route was critically important to east-west connectivity as well as local residents.

Skipton councillor Robert Heseltine described the re-routing of the road as a “social and economic necessity”, while other members urged Mr Jenrick to make a swift decision over the proposal.