Mum and baby rescued by police from car park chaos

Traffic queuing on Bulter Street in Preston, where commuters and shoppers battled to exit Preston via Fishergate last week
Traffic queuing on Bulter Street in Preston, where commuters and shoppers battled to exit Preston via Fishergate last week
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The mum of a disabled baby has said her son could have died after they became trapped in massive queues in the centre of Preston.

Nicola Blackwell took her nine-month-old son Benjamin to see Father Christmas in Preston on Sunday, but then became stuck in the Fishergate Centre car park, with drivers reporting a wait of up to five hours to get out.

Benjamin Blackwell

Benjamin Blackwell

Benjamin has brain damage and chronic lung disease and relies on an oxygen tank, but did not have enough oxygen to last in the long queue.

Nicola, 25, who lives in Preston, said: “My baby is on oxygen – if he runs out he will die.

“He had an hour left in the tank which would have got him home, but because there was a four hour delay it was just running and running.”

Nicola contacted the emergency services and she and Benjamin were taken home in a police car, while her other children were taken home in an ambulance.

She said: “What a waste of police and ambulance time – they are not a taxi service.”

Other shoppers had been threatening to take their business out of Preston after the major delays over the weekend.

Mark Whittle, Preston BID manager, said: “We believe the levels of congestion experienced are linked to problems involving the city centres traffic management plan which we are urging LCC to act on as a matter of absolute urgency.

“The BID has invested significant funds in making Preston a go-to destination at this important time of year and we as a city must deal with this to prevent visitors shopping elsewhere.”

Lancashire County Council did not comment on Nicola’s specific case, but Daniel Herbert, network manager, said: “We have made some temporary changes to try and manage the traffic and we will continue to monitor the situation to see how the changes are working.

“We’re aware that some drivers are still turning right at the top of Butler Street, which backs up the traffic while they wait for space to pull out.

“By turning left onto Fishergate and onto Ringway via Bow Lane, this will help to reduce the length of the queues.

“We’ve improved the signs along London Road, to make people aware of changes to the road layout and help motorists to avoid the busiest areas in the city centre.

“Unfortunately, because of the large volume of traffic, there is little more we can do without having a knock on effect on other roads which may make the situation worse.”

Fishergate Shopping Centre bosses said they were “working with all parties”.