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£800 million plan could cause more traffic chaos

Preston's Tithebarn regeneration is a "potential transport nightmare", it was claimed today.

Campaigners are concerned the city's roads will hit crisis point thanks to an influx of thousands of extra visitors once the 800m revamp is completed.

Top names like John Lewis and a revamped Marks and Spencer could bring thousands of extra visitors to the city.

And that is fuelling growing fears Preston's main arteries will hit meltdown under the pressure and led to calls for urgent investment to boost city transport.

The concerns come as the results of the Evening Post's Great Transport Debate survey into the state of Preston's transport network were revealed today.

Preston's clogged roads and 12m roadworks hell are driving commuters and residents round the bend - but, according to the findings, few seem prepared to ditch the car in favour of public transport.

More than three quarters of people do not think the city is 'car friendly', yet more than half never use trains, 40% never use buses and three quarters never use the city's park and ride facilities, the figures reveal.

And a huge majority - 87% -of people are demanding Preston's roadworks undergo improvement now.

Aiden Turner-Bishop, of the Campaign for Better Transport in Lancashire, said: "I think Tithebarn is a potential transport nightmare.

"Imagine all the cars, the Christmas shoppers going to John Lewis all going on to Ringway.

"They are just not thinking it through, it is like Peter Pan in fairy land. They need a long-term strategic think and to look at ways of dealing with the car culture."

The findings will today lay bare the scale of the task facing Preston's regeneration plans.

They also suggest attempts to get more people on to public transport and out of cars is failing.

Figures uncovered earlier this year revealed car traffic in Lancashire increased by 13% in five years.

More than half of people travel to work by car, according to our poll. Just 2% car share, despite efforts to promote the idea.

The bus is the most popular form of public transport - with 16% of people using them.

But a staggering 77% of people say they have been put off using them as a result of Preston's increasingly bitter bus wars between Preston Bus and Stagecoach.

The city's roads are already straining under the pressure of more than 55,000 vehicles.

Emergency services have missed response targets and at least four major incidents last year sparked hours of gridlock.

Crucially though, more than 80% believe congestion charging should not be introduced in Preston.

Instead people would like to see more park and ride sites, pedestrianisation of Fishergate and a new motorway junction at Brock, near Garstang.

Campaigners and business bosses said today the survey is the clearest indication yet that Tithebarn should be as much about roads as retail.

Colin Barnes, former architect and chairman of the Preston Canal Link Trust, said the city is "years behind."

He added: "This is not surprising. Lancashire County Council and Preston Council have their consultations but no one is listening.

"Tony Martin has said he disagrees with his own party over public transport. How can we become the third city with that attitude?

"Well done to the Evening Post.

"This should have been done years ago, but it should have been done by the local authorities."

Frank McKenna, of business lobby group Preston Downtown in Business, said: "What we have urged the authorities to do is look at the whole strategy for transport in and out of Preston.

"The Tithebarn development gives us the opportunity to look at it again.

"If you are going to spent hundreds of millions on regeneration you need to spend money on the transport structure."

Nicholas Watson, the chief executive of Preston's Chamber of Trade, said: "Anything and everything that can be done to make the city more accessible is necessary and we have to look at a solution in between the pedestrian and the car."

But city leaders say transport will be the top priority of the Tithebarn regeneration.

Preston Council leader Ken Hudson, said the council is in the process of developing a major access strategy to look at what needs to be done to reduce congestion as Tithebarn becomes a reality.

He said: "Access to the city is number one on the agenda.

"It is not good having quality shopping if people cannot get in and out and both Grosvenor and ourselves think that is key."

He added that the pedestrianisation of Tithebarn is "something we would all like to see".

LCC's sustainable development boss Tony Martin said points out the county council has already pledged some 5m to a new bus station as part of the Tithebarn project.

Transport boss Matthew Tomlinson has also signed off a new park and ride facility at Bluebell Way this week which should help alleviate congestion north of the city centre.

Coun Martin added: "We think we are trying to do the best we can. What we would say to Preston Council and the developers is: Talk to us."

Coun Tomlinson said: "We will be taking a full part in the consultation.

There is no point building a shopping centre in the middle of Preston that no one can get to."

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