A bridge over the Ribble remains “in the mix” of Lancashire’s long-term transport ambitions - but would probably only get the green light if it brought economic benefits stretching far beyond the river which it would span.
That was the message to councillors in Preston, Chorley and South Ribble who were discussing the development of a new transport vision for the three districts.
Lancashire County Council’s Head of Planning, Marcus Hudson, said that the often-promised structure still “featured” in an overall strategy for the county - but added that it would need to prove its worth before it got off the drawing board.
“It’s about how you build a business case for something of that scale,” he said.
“Just how much does it does support the aspirations for [housing] development in the area and wider regional ambitions? I think any business case would have to [focus] on the latter.
“It has to be in the mix from the outset of this [transport review] process, but whether it’s still there in terms of a justifiable proposition at the end of it, I couldn't say,” Mr. Hudson explained.
The idea of a Ribble crossing has been raised on several occasions over the years, most recently in 2016, when it formed part of a proposal from Lancashire's Local Enterprise Partnership.
It described the possibility of an uninterrupted dual carriageway between the A582 at Cuerden and the M55 - via the new Penwortham bypass and across the river to join the planned Preston Western Distributor Road off the A583. However, any scheme was not expected to begin until 2026.
Preston City councillor Neil Henderson-Cartwright told fellow members of the Central Lancashire Joint Advisory Committee that the importance of the cross-river link should not be underestimated.
“I would have thought that there was a strategic case for the wellbeing of Central Lancashire, as well as Fylde and West Lancashire,” he said.
“It does solve a lot of problems - not least for A6 traffic when the M6 is closed and people have to come through Preston.
“It is something which has got to be there [in principle], so we can demonstrate that this is seen as a very important proposal - and so that nobody can say in five years’ time that we did a masterplan and yet there was no mention of it,” Cllr Henderson-Cartwright added.
Work is underway to refresh a medium-term transport plan specifically for Central Lancashire, while a 25-year strategy is also being developed for the entire county.
Preston City Council’s director of development, Chris Hayward, told members that it was important to remember the “significant amount” of transport infrastructure which had been completed or signed off in the area in recent years - including the Broughton and Penwortham bypasses, Preston Western Distributor and East-West link roads
“People believe that the infrastructure should be in place before [new] houses, but that is very difficult to achieve - we need the housing in place to fund the infrastructure,” Mr. Hayward said.