THE GROUP trying to save Queensbury Tunnel so it can be used as a cycle track has urged the public to register their objections to a planning application to fill it in before it is too late.

Queensbury Tunnel Society says that 4,400 people have so far objected to Highways England’s plans for the tunnel’s abandonment, making it one of the most commented on planning applications ever considered by Bradford Council.

It says only two people have submitted comments in favour of abandonment. A further 74 people talk eloquently about the benefits of the tunnel as a cycle route, but have recorded their ‘Stance’ as ‘Support’. This means they are also viewed as backing abandonment.

Group engineering co-ordinator Graeme Bickerdike said: “Four thousand four hundred is an unprecedented number and every person who objects makes that voice louder.”

He said recent work to shore up one of the tunnel’s five air shafts would make the conversion of the tunnel into a cycleway a bit harder but he said the pressing need was to try and stop the planning application from ending the project.

He said: “The significant issue is the planning application. If they get approval then that is probably it.

“As soon as they get permission then they will start to abandon it and that will be it.

“Given the climate emergency and health issues, cycling is something we need to do more of.

“Repairing the tunnel is an investment that will pay back over time.”

A message on the group’s Facebook page called on members of the public to comment on the application soon if they had not done so as it would not be long before the Council determines it: “Remember to record your ‘Stance’ as ‘Object’.”

The application was due to be decided today but consideration of it was deferred while Bradford Council takes planning contravention notice action over Highways England’s emergency infilling work.

The society said it had obtained documentation which indicated that Highways England had been considering the “immediate infilling” of No2 Shaft - irrespective of whether its planning application for the tunnel’s abandonment had been determined - for several weeks prior to the recent emergency works.

Mr Bickerdike said that No2 shaft was in the worst condition of the five shafts “but not too bad”. He said there was a known defect close to the base but enough unaffected lining of the tunnel to redistribute the weight - the bottom part is supported by an arch and the upper portion is supported by a ledge.

“The whole issue is that the defects themselves are not particularly severe,” added Mr Bickerdike

He said the emergency work being undertaken by Highways England was “disproportionate” and did not reflect the emerging situation.

He said work should only have been done if a significant deterioration was noted but the society’s sources had said that there had been no serious change for three years.

“Whichever way you look at it, infilling is totally unjustifiable.”

He said the work being done by Highways England’s contractors would not really affect the plans for the cycle way conversion as the shaft would still have been needed to be repaired like other sections.

Highways England has stated that safety is its top priority and it continually monitors the condition of the tunnel. It says the emergency work was completed on 28 October and the shaft no longer represents a risk to the communities living close by. The work was designed to be reversible should the tunnel be reopened.

It has stated that the highest level of legal advice was taken before the work started.