A few days ago I received a letter from Lancashire County Council announcing that the route for the new stretch of by-pass in Penwortham running from the Booths roundabout to the A59 at Howick has been protected.
Last year I attended public consultations and found out the plan to build this piece of by-pass is founded on a longer term plan to build further sections linking to a new bridge over the river Ribble then to the M55 at Swill Brook.
The reason there has never been a Junction 2 on the M55 (which opened in 1975) was to leave room for this new piece of by-pass. This plan has been dormant for many years and re-risen as a result of the City Deal Programme:
‘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.’
I attended a Penwortham Town Council Meeting on Monday the 7th of October where I raised concerns about the impact of the new section of by-pass on the local environment in Penwortham and the longer term plan for the Ribble bridge. This would destroy part of the Ribble’s natural coast line and Lea Marsh, a Biological Heritage Site which is home to two rare salt marsh grasses; long-stalked orache and meadow barley.
At this meeting the Town Council voted against the new route in favour of the ‘rescinded route’ which would run through Longton and would not link to a new bridge. In light of their vote I was shocked (but not surprised) when I received the letter from LCC saying the new route had been protected. LCC are preparing to submit a planning application in spring 2016 and have promised further public consultations. Should permission be granted the by-pass could be completed and opened by 2018.
The results of the questionnaire to local residents about the by-pass are revealingly vague:
‘the questionnaire you received back in September 2014 was sent to 13,000 residents… Over 1,250 residents and others interested in the road replied and only a small number were against completing Penwortham bypass by whichever choice of route. This suggests a strong degree of consensus among the local community that the bypass should be completed. As part of our consultation, the County Council presented its preferred route…’
By careful rewording relating to the completion of by-pass in general LCC have covered up the fact that there was a large amount of opposition to the new route and they have over-ridden the vote of Penwortham Town Council and the opinions of local residents.
The letter describes the benefits of the new route including the long term plans to link to the new Ribble bridge and aims to address ‘legitimate concerns’. It also speaks of plans to improve Liverpool Road ‘the local centre of Penwortham’. This seems like a decoy and tantamount to sweeping the dust under the carpet. The destructive impact of the new by-pass can be redeemed by promoting the use of buses, walking and cycling in the town centre (???). This looks like extremely skewed logic to me.
It’s clear the destruction of local fields, the natural coastline of the Ribble and Lea Marsh need to be prevented. Is there a way to oppose the building of the new stretch of by-pass that would persuade LCC to change their minds before planning permission is granted in spring 2016? I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on what can be done.