Today I went to a consultation organised by South Ribble Borough Council at Kingsfold Community Centre about changes to the planning of a new section of Penwortham By-pass. When I received an invitation through the post I was surprised as this was the first time I had been made aware of the original plan, let alone the new one.
The rescinded route was to run from Broad Oak Roundabout in Penwortham, across Lindle Lane, several fields, part of Bamford’s Wood, then across Saunders Lane to join a new roundabout on the A59 close to Chapel Lane in Longton.
The new route will run from Broad Oak Roundabout, north of Lindle Lane and just north of Mill Brook. After crossing a series of fields it will join the A59 near to Howick Cross.
The proposal (1) states an extra section of by-pass is needed to divert traffic away from Penwortham and residential and shopping areas on the A59, to improve conditions for residents, pedestrians and cyclists and reduce road casualties.
Reasons for the change of plan include not demolishing five houses; a smaller environmental impact with less loss of land; half a mile shorter; a more direct route to a new Ribble crossing.
All well and good. But why do we ‘need’ this new stretch of by-pass in the first place? This assumption is based on the premise that we need to prioritise economic development. This is the purpose of the City Deal.
‘The Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal is an ambitious programme of work that builds on the strong economic performance of the area over the last ten years and will help ensure the area continues to grow by addressing major transport issues to deliver new jobs and housing. Over a ten-year period the deal will generate more than 20,000 jobs, over 17,000 homes and more importantly grow the local economy. With the funding certainty it brings, we are able to deliver these transport improvements sooner we would otherwise be able to. This means new homes and jobs can come sooner and we can reduce congestion on existing roads and improve areas for communities and road users.’
Let’s pause to look at the bigger picture. This is a map of the overall plan for the City Deal over the next ten years.
The piece of by-pass in question is outlined in darker red close to the number 4. Its ultimate aim is to link to a new piece of road from Howick Cross to a new bridge over the River Ribble, across Lea Marsh to join the M55 at Swillbrook.
Lea Marsh is home to numerous birds and an area of environmental importance. I was assured that if it was built on, another nature reserve would be created in its place. Surely there can be no real compensation for an irreplaceable piece of land and its inhabitants?
This new piece of road will improve access to BAE and other businesses at Warton. BAE play a major part in the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (2).
I found it somewhat chilling when I learnt this was the reason there was no junction built on the M55. It seems this was all been planned a long, long time ahead…
I’ve got a form to fill out now. Aside from minor details my only real chance to share my opinion is in a box labelled ‘Please tell us any issues that you think may affect our proposed route for the completion of Penwortham By-pass.’
There is no clear room for objection; to the by-pass or to the premise that economic development is the right or only way forward.
There is no way of arguing for alternative improvements to public transport. ‘Even with a greater investment in public transport, cycling and walking, our current roads will not be able to cope.’
It seems this consultation is a symbolic gesture and the decision that we must have one road or the other has already been made far in advance.
(1) City Deal, Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire, Share your views on the proposals for the completion of Penwortham By-pass (August 2014)
(2) http://www.lancashirelep.co.uk/media/8787/LEP-growth-plan.pdf p10