AFTER years of speculation, ambitious proposals for a new crossing over the River Ribble have finally been laid out.
Plans to build a link between South Ribble and Preston have been set out in County Council papers and the ambitious Lancashire Transport Prospectus.
Leaders have described a new crossing as “hugely significant” for the area, with the giant structure to span from Howick Cross in Penwortham to Blackpool Road in Preston.
Part of a 48-page report explains how major new roads have been accelerated through the City Deal, meaning investigations are under way to see if a crossing could progress “more quickly”, and “how such a project might be funded”.
Seema Kennedy, MP for South Ribble, said: “Creating a new Ribble crossing is of enormous strategic importance, not just to South Ribble and Central Lancashire, but to the wider region.
“It was the subject of my maiden speech, and I will continue to campaign and do everything I possibly can to make it a reality.
“Not only is South Ribble thriving at the moment, it has huge potential for future growth.
“It’s important, therefore, to ensure that the rural character of our area is protected and enhanced, through initiatives like the Central Park.
“It is also essential that the larger infrastructure projects, like a new Ribble crossing, are prioritised and funded appropriately.
“There have been some encouraging steps forward in recent months, and I look forward to more in the weeks ahead, as we all work together, through projects like the City Deal, to make South Ribble an even better place in which to live, work and invest.”
County Coun John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport at Lancashire County Council, described a possible new crossing for the river as a “long-term aim”.
He said: “This ambition is set out in both the City Deal and the Lancashire Transport Prospectus.
“Detailed studies need to be done to confirm if the project is feasible.
“Once this has been established, we’ll also need to look at how much it will cost and how we can secure the necessary funding.
“Understandably, due to their complexity, projects like this do not happen overnight and it is therefore unlikely that any construction work could start in at least the next five years.
“As part of the City Deal we’re making major improvements to the road network across Preston and South Ribble.
“We’re currently working on proposals for the Preston Western Distributor, a new link from the M55 into Preston; and work is continuing on the plans for both the Penwortham Bypass and the widening of the A582.
“A new river crossing would connect these schemes, as part of our once-in-a-generation plans to transform Preston and South Ribble with new roads, new homes and new jobs.”
Coun Margaret Smith, leader of South Ribble Council, said: “A new Ribble crossing would be hugely significant for the area, but it’s important to understand the complexities involved.
“While it is exciting to think of the possibilities, we have to be realistic in terms of the time such major projects take.
“It is a long-term aim, but one that we need to keep at the forefront of our minds, because it is only prudent to do so in light of the City Deal accelerating so many of our existing ambitions for the area.
“I look forward to continuing positive discussions about this and the wider economic growth of the area with our City Deal partners and other interested parties.”
A report, entitled ‘Lancashire - as part of interconnected and productive northern powerhouse’, outlines the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP’s) national, regional and local transport priorities, and highlights the plans for the new crossing.
It says: “The Central Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan included a longer term (post 2026) proposal to construct a new crossing of the River Ribble to link together the Preston Western Distributor and the South Ribble Western Distributor roads via a completed Penwortham Bypass to provide a continuous dual carriageway route between Cuerden and the M55 to the west of Preston.
“Delivery of these schemes has been accelerated through the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal; therefore, the County Council and partner have begun to investigate whether a new crossing could progress more quickly and how such a project might be funded.”