Safety fears over mini-roundabout 'with too many exits’ for new Chorley prison

The public inquiry into a proposed new prison in Chorley has heard a claim that a mini-roundabout planned for a major junction en route to the new facility would have an “extremely unusual” six arms leading off it.
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That was the verdict of highways expert Kevin Riley, who raised a raft of concerns about the revamped road layout that would be introduced where the A581 Southport Road meets Ulnes Walton Lane – and warned that the number of exits would prevent the implementation of a key safety feature.

He was speaking last week at the reopened inquiry into plans by the Ministry of Justice to build a 1,700-capacity jail in Ulnes Walton, close to the existing Garth and Wymott lock-ups.

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However, Mr. Riley came under fire from a barrister representing the government for including the entrances to private driveways within his definition of a roundabout arm. Jenny Wigley KC also told the hearing that the suggested design was in some ways safer than the current T-junction at the location.

Revised plans for a mini-roundabout at the junction of the A581 Southport Road and Ulnes Walton Lane proved contentious at the reopened public inquiry (image: Google)Revised plans for a mini-roundabout at the junction of the A581 Southport Road and Ulnes Walton Lane proved contentious at the reopened public inquiry (image: Google)
Revised plans for a mini-roundabout at the junction of the A581 Southport Road and Ulnes Walton Lane proved contentious at the reopened public inquiry (image: Google)


The issue of the mini-roundabout was one of the reasons planning inspector Tom Gilbert-Wooldridge gave for refusing the Ministry of Justice’s appeal against Chorley Council’s refusal of permission for the jail after a public inquiry back in 2022. He highlighted the lack of detail provided about the feature and the fact that no modelling had been undertaken as to its likely impact.

Since then, two designs have been drawn up, the most recent of which is centred around a larger mini-roundabout than first intended, which the MoJ argues addresses deficiencies in the first blueprint which were picked up by an independent road safety audit of the plans..

In cross-examining Mr. Riley, Ms. Wigley said the proposed layout would represent “a betterment” to the current arrangement – by preventing HGVs from “tracking” into the opposite carriageway when negotiating the junction.

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While he accepted there would be an improvement “in respect [of] that one…issue”, Mr. Riley told the inquiry that alternative arrangements should be considered where a mini-roundabout would have more than four arms.

However, Jenny Wigley noted that good practice guidance for mini-roundabout design did not count private driveways – of which there are three at the A581/Ulnes Walton Lane intersection – as arms of such junctions. For that reason, she said, the proposed design was a three-arm mini-roundabout – and not the six-exit set-up described by Mr. Riley.

Acknowleding that driveways were “likely to have lower traffic flows”, Mr Riley said: “That doesn’t mean that the movements that come out of them are any less dangerous.”

That assessment prompted Ms. Wigley to stress that such movements were likely to be “extremely lower” than those along the roads leading into a mini-roundabout.

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However, the inquiry heard it was the presence of those driveways – and the facilitation of manoeuvres in and out of them – that meant a recommendation of the road safety audit for the inclusion of “splitter islands”, to add definition to the proposed road layout and prevent it being misread, could not be included at the location.

While Ms. Wigley noted that the road safety audit suggested signage on the approach to the junction to achieve the same aim, Mr. Riley claimed that idea was not being floated as “an alternative” to the islands.

Meanwhile, documents presented to the inquiry stated that Lancashire County Council, in its role as the highways authority, had reviewed the plans for the junction and continued to have no objections to them.

Ms. Wigley said County Hall accepted that “all vehicles tested can safely never navigate the alternative junction design”.

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The inquiry will resume later this month to continue hearing roads-related evidence. It has been reopened almost two years after it was first convened in order to hear fresh evidence about transport issues in relation to the proposed prison.

It follows the conclusion of the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, last year that he was “minded to” allow the MoJ’s appeal against Chorley Council’s refusal of permission – provided he could be satisfied highways issues had been “satisfactorily addressed”.

The inspector will visit the site for himself – having already previously done so for the 2022 hearing – before making his latest recommendation to the government.

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