Anger over plans to axe trees for by-pass at Singleton

Highways England is set to spend millions on a bypass to ease traffic on the A585 - but the plans have met opposition from a businessman unhappy at the environmental impact.

By Richard Hunt
Thursday, 19th December 2019, 5:00 pm
The Leylandii trees under threat at Singleton
The Leylandii trees under threat at Singleton

More than 250 trees are facing the axe to make to make way for a new £100m bypass.

Businessman John Ditchfield says Highways England’s plans cut across part of his land at Singleton - meaning he could be forced to sell a large swathe of it.

The new road, between Windy Harbour and Skippool aims to reduce congestion on the A585, which has been plagued with traffic problems for years.

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But Mr Ditchfield is unhappy that 118 conifer trees and around 150 other trees and hawthorn shrubs on his land - on the corner of Fleetwood Road and Garstang Road - are set to be cut down.

The scheme requires one and a half acres of Mr Ditchfield’s land being dug up and re-surfaced to make space for the road to be widened.

Mr Ditchfield, who runs his own glassworks business from his home, argues that barren land on the opposite side of the road would be more suitable, instead of destroying so many long established trees.

The £100m road project is the long-awaited solution to the on-going congestion problems at one of theFylde coast’s busiest stretches of road.

Highways England said its chosen route - which was the preferred option of two put out to public consultation - will help ease traffic problems, cut delays and make the roads safer.

However, the proposals have attracted some criticism from residents about the loss of green habitat and the increase in traffic lights, which they say will nullify any advantages.

The Planning Inspectorate has examined the plans and is putting the finishing touches on its report, due in early January, with its recommendation to the Secretary of State, who is expected to make a decision on the bypass by April.

Mr Ditchfield said he was informed of the compulsory purchase order plans after receiving a letter from Highways England and has spent months trying to discuss the issue with the road authority.

He said: “I cannot understand why Highways England finds it necessary to destroy these long-established trees.

“The conifers are 60 ft tall and have taken years to grow that height.

“All these trees are vital for the environment and also provide a natural screen for our home, they protect us from the wind that whips up around here.

“There could be a better way of doing this but Highways England doesn’t seem to be interested.

“At a time when we are being encouraged to plant trees, they want to knock them down. I don’t even think Highways England’s plans will solve the congestion issue, despite all the money being spent.”

Mr Ditchfield said he had been given no timetable for when the compulsory purchase order would come into effect.

A spokesman for Highways England said:

“We are removing some mature - but non native - leylandii trees and a hedgerow from the current southern boundary of the A585.

“This is along a short section of the route, which will form the eastern end of the overall improvement.

“There is also some woodland in this area which is being retained.

“As part of the project, we’ll be carrying out extensive planting here and along other sections of the route.

“While we accept it will take time for the new trees to mature they will help to screen the new road and reduce traffic noise.

“As we move towards the start of construction we will be meeting with local residents and land owners where we will discuss issues such as these in detail.”