Businesses in Penwortham have banded together to call for a u-turn on plans to close a slip road which connects the town to Preston.
As the Post reported earlier this week, Lancashire County Council is proposing to shut off the link between the A59 Liverpool Road and the Guild Way flyover once the new Penwortham bypass opens next year.
County Hall says it wants to stop needless journeys through the town. But readers variously branded the idea “bonkers” and “unnecessary”.
Now, the town’s shopkeepers have also slammed the idea, warning that it could have a devastating impact on sales.
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Alexandros Evangelou, whose family has run Andrea’s fish and chip shop for more than 25 years, said the authority had failed to consider the implications for businesses like theirs.
“About 25 percent of our custom is from passing trade,” Alexandros explains.
“Whether it’s a coffee shop or a charity shop, we all rely on that to some degree. So it will have a significant impact on all businesses - and any shop owners who don’t believe that haven’t thought about it very well.
“I also feel like we haven’t been informed correctly about the plans. When we went to a public meeting about the bypass a couple of years ago, this wasn’t mentioned.
“If that had been the plan back then, we would have fought against the bypass. It just feels like they’re taking Penwortham in the wrong direction,” Alexandros adds.
That reflection draws an enthusiastic “here, here” from the owner of a fellow Liverpool Road business, Priory Kitchen Studios.
While Jeff Smith acknowledges that a kitchen is not a purchase which people make in passing, he says his place on the parade of shops makes his business visible to potential customers. He claims that the notorious queues through the town centre actually work in his favour.
“We have got a captive audience here - when people come in, they say they saw us when they were stuck in a traffic jam,” Jeff says.
“It might be months later, but by then, they know we are here. You don’t want to put any kind of restriction on the potential to get new business.
“I can understand why the council are doing this, but more thought was needed and maybe a get-together with locals and businesses about how they might be affected.
“I think it will actually make traffic worse, because people will still come along Liverpool Road and use the alternative route.”
That alternative involves heading beneath the flyover, turning right onto Leyland Road and doubling back in the direction of Preston via two roundabouts - before accessing the flyover itself on Golden Way.
Alison Cannon, from dry cleaners Suitpreme, described the plans as “overkill”. Although the nature of her business means visits are pre-planned, she says they also have to be convenient for customers.
“People call in to see me and then head into Preston,” she says.
“It’s just a shame, because this is a thriving high street, when so many others are going into decline.
“It does need something doing about the traffic, because of the number of children and elderly people who walk along here. But there are other ways of managing it - maybe make it 20mph - but this is probably the cheapest.”
Sam Hall says her customers are also in search of a simple journey when they pay a visit to her e-cigarette shop, No Match.
“We get a lot of trade form further afield, like Kirkham and Lytham - and if this makes it more difficult for them to come in and out, they might not bother,” she warns.
“The council are opening the bypass for a reason, because the traffic is bad - so why then go and shut another road?”
‘PLAN WILL HIT PEOPLE AS WELL AS PROFITS’
Russell Clayton has worked in Penwortham Garage on Liverpool Road since he was 15 years old. More than 30 years on, he is alarmed at what the county council has planned for the short stretch of road leading to the Golden Way flyover.
“When I saw the plans in the Post, I thought it was just sheer stupidity - why would you make people travel much further, around two roundabouts?
“Lostock Hall, Bamber Bridge and Longton have all got a bypass in some form, but you can still use the existing roads if you choose.
“It’s not about keeping it as a cut through, because most commuters will use the bypass. But the people who actually live here will need to use this road even to get to the bypass.
“On the alternative route via Leyland Road, you’ll be accelerating and decelerating repeatedly - or sat at traffic lights idling. All that amounts to extra pollution,” Russell says.
He also warns that emergency vehicles could be unnecessarily delayed by the proposed changes and rejects the suggestion that Penwortham should follow the route taken by Broughton since its bypass opened in 2017. Various traffic calming measures have since been installed in the village to discourage through traffic.
"I think Broughton is a fine example of how you can ruin a town. I went through it on my bike the other day and you could hear a pin drop.
“If they do the same thing to Penwortham, it will be the death knell for the town.”
Garage owner Alec Gabbatt accepts that much of his trade now comes from the internet - but he worries that fellow businesses will be hard hit.
“We do still get the odd driver passing by who likes the look of a car and stops, so that will die off. But others will be worse affected than me - and trade along this road is already as quiet as it’s been for a long time,” he adds.
‘PENWORTHAM WILL BECOME A MORE PLEASANT PLACE TO BE’
Keith Iddon, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for highways, says the authority’s plans for Penwortham after the opening of the bypass are “a balancing act”.
“I was repeatedly contacted when I first got this job by people complaining that they had been queuing in Penwortham for half an hour and asking when we were going to do something about it,” County Cllr Iddon said.
“The bypass answers that question and also reduces the fumes which pedestrians in the town will be exposed to.
“As a businessman, I do appreciate the point of view [of the shop owners on Liverpool Road], but what we are doing will ensure that people actually want to come to visit Penwortham, because it will become a pleasant place to be - and residents will be proud of it.”
New street furniture is set to be installed and revised road layouts implemented once the bypass is open.
County Cllr Iddon says the plans do not mean Penwortham will be cut off from Preston - and there will still be a through route along Liverpool Road if people choose to use it.
“It’s very feasible to carry on across the river over Penwortham Bridge and onto Strand Road - or take the very short diversion around Leyland Road and back onto the A59 [Golden Way].
“This process is a balancing act, but I’m confident we have got the balance right.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
People can have their say on the plans for the slip road by emailing email@example.com or writing to: The Director of Corporate Services, Lancashire County Council, PO Box 78, County Hall, Preston PR1 8XJ by 26th July.
The plans can be viewed by visiting lancashire.gov.uk and searching for “proposed traffic regulation orders”, where a reference number can also be found which should be included with any correspondence on the issue.