A multi-million pound road that will cut across swathes of greenfield land in Lancashire could finally be built after more than 30 years.
For years campaigners have fought against plans for a dual carriageway that would see large areas of New Longton, Whitestake and Hutton carved up to create a link road to Preston.
Now, planners have scrapped the plans in favour of an alternative route that they claim will bring economic benefits to the area, cut commute times to Preston and ease traffic congestion across the area.
However, critics claim the road, which could be completed by 2023, will be under used and argue it will fail to curb existing congestion problems.
David Bennett, of Penwortham Bypass Action Group, which has campaigned for the bypass for years, questioned use of the new shorter route, which will cut through acres of greenfield land off Penwortham Road linking Howick Cross with the Broad Oak Lane roundabout in Penwortham.
He said: “I can stand by my bedroom window in Liverpool Road and watch traffic crawl passed from 7.45am to 9.15am.
“But if they want a ready-to-shovel scheme, then why not go for previous route which has been protected for years?
“If you move it up to Howick, then you’re going to have another roundabout that will only attract the same congestion as the one at Hutton does now, and if you’ve got that far, you may as well carry on along Liverpool Road.
“I’d also have concerns about the amount of traffic that would be using the Broad Oak roundabout, because I can imagine it would have to be enlarged to something the size of South Rings in Bamber Bridge.”
County Coun Tony Pimblett, who represents the Penwortham North, said: “In its wisdom, the council wants to go for the shorter route, and I think that’s because it’s cheaper. If this gets the go ahead, then it won’t be finished till at least 2023, and who knows how much the price will have risen by then?”
The original ‘blue’ route would mean a road cutting across Saunder’s Lane, over Longton Brook, through Bamford’s Wood, North of New Longton playing fields and across Mill Brook and Lindle Lane in Whitestake.
The preferred ‘brown’ route would travel across playing fields and greenbelt land parallel to Lindle Lane.
The report states that not building the bypass would mean “congestion would impact on the area’s growth and economic development as business would find it difficult to operate as employees, suppliers and customers will find it more difficult to travel.”
Leader of South Ribble Council, Coun Margaret Smith, who represents New Longton and Hutton East, where the bypass would run, said: “I’d be interested to see how people feel. I think that there will be concern about the impact on the countryside, but on the other hand, we do have big problems getting from this area into Preston.”
Residents living in the Lindle Lane area said the ‘brown’ route is the “most sensible option”.
One resident, who asked not to be named, said: “It would go at the back of us, rather that out in front, so we wouldn’t really see it. At least with this plan, Lindle Lane wouldn’t be carved up.”
Audrey Dawson of the South Ribble branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), said: “We are all for the preservation of Lancashire’s green spaces, and if I’d been brought up on a farm in that area, then I’d be so sad about it.
“However, we do have to be practical, and even the CPRE recognises that people in Higher Penwortham are really struggling with the congestion. Sometimes it’s about the greater good of the local community. An alternative might be having a Park and Ride scheme in Hutton, but there is a lack of brownfield land to build that on.”
A park and ride scheme in Hutton is another idea proposed as part of the masterplan, as is doubling the size of the A582 Penwortham Way to form a dual carriageway to Lostock Hall. A public consultation meeting will run from 11am to 8pm today at Penwortham Community Centre in Kingsfold Drive.
A Lancashire County Council spokesman said the masterplan was “aspirational” and that no firm details on funding, exact route, or why the brown route was now preferable, were available. Coun Tim Ashton, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “Many of the proposals are based on the need to provide for the future housing and business growth set out in district council plans.”