Liverpool Road was set to be redesigned following the opening of the town’s bypass just over a year ago, with the aim of making it more attractive for pedestrians and cyclists now that far fewer vehicles are travelling along its length.
A public consultation on reshaping the town centre was carried out in late 2018. Amongst the most popular suggestions for a post-bypass Penwortham were a reduction in the speed limit, more parking and a better overall appearance.
However, apart from new cycle lanes, little else has changed in the main shopping area since the long-awaited dual carriageway was opened last December - prompting Penwortham West county councillor David Howarth to quiz deputy council leader Keith Iddon over the future of the scheme.
“We [now] have a commitment to putting a cycle superhighway all the way through from Preston to Hutton - which will go through the district centre - and I do wonder how that is going to impact on any scope for a regeneration scheme that the county now brings forward,” County Cllr Howarth said.
He also questioned why new bus stop clearways - preventing other vehicles stopping in the bays at any time - were being introduced only at selected stops outside the district centre, close to Carleton Drive, Blashaw Lane and Howick shops.
“Disabled and elderly people are having great difficulty getting on and off the buses [in the centre],” County Cllr Howarth said.
A meeting of the full council heard from County Cllr Iddon that the clearways may be extended in future if funds permit.
On the wider regeneration of Penwortham, he added: “Obviously, things have to go along at a pace - and the first part will be the regeneration of the junction where [the new] Tesco is going to be.
“I’m hoping that we can finalise things and it will be rolled out in the near future - but I can assure you it hasn’t been forgotten.
“The cycling highway [plan for a route segregated from traffic]...has been very well-received by a lot of people in the area,” County Cllr Iddon added.
It is unclear where the funding will come from for any future upgrades in the centre of Penwortham. As part of the City Deal - which funded the bypass itself - £1.5m was allocated for improvements to the “Hutton to Higher Penwortham corridor” to discourage through-traffic and promote use of the bypass.
However, a report presented to a meeting of the Central Lancashire strategic planning joint advisory committee last month noted that only £862,000 had so far been spent - and that once the bus stop clearways were installed and some other new road markings laid down, the scheme would be “complete”.
Back in January, South Ribble Borough Council’s cabinet committed to developing a Penwortham masterplan – indicating that the authority would fund urban design work and then start delivering town centre improvements itself in 2021/22.