Plans to turn one of Central Lancashire’s busiest roads into a dual carriageway could receive a boost if a bid for £50m of extra funding is successful.
The proposal to upgrade the A582 between Cuerden and the outskirts of Preston city centre has been selected as one of 16 projects across the North of England which have been pitched to government in an attempt to secure a share of £3.5bn from a new highways fund.
The long-discussed plan - known as South Ribble Western Distributor - would see all those sections of the route which are currently single carriageway widened to become two lanes in each direction.
The work would run from the A582’s junction with the A6 and along Lostock Lane, Farington Way and Flensburg Way through to the ‘tank roundabout’; and Penwortham Way to just before the Broad Oak roundabout, beyond which point the road is already dualled.
The B5253 section of Flensburg Way from the Farington household waste recycling centre to Longmeanygate would also be turned into a dual carriageway under the plans - and the latter junction (where Bobby the Iron Horse is sited) would become signal-controlled.
The project is one of several due to be delivered by the Lancashire, Preston and South Ribble City Deal to bring new infrastructure, housing and jobs to the region.
But it emerged earlier this year that the scheme was facing “budget pressures”. Papers presented to a City Deal meeting back in March revealed that plans were in place to bridge the shortfall – including an attempt to get the project added to the Transport for the North (TfN) wish list of schemes to be submitted to government.
However, the Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that other sources of funding are likely to be required to make the project a reality.
A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “If successful, this funding will contribute towards the total costs associated with a wider programme of works that are yet to be finalised and are subject to planning approval.”
It is not thought that work on the scheme could begin before the end of 2021, because the often lengthy process of acquiring compulsory purchase orders for adjoining land would have to be undertaken first. A planning application is also expected to be submitted to South Ribble Borough Council next year.
The government’s National Roads Fund totals £28.3bn – £3.5bn of which has been reserved for locally-submitted projects. The strategic transport body TfN has applied for £700m worth of schemes across the North.
County Cllr Michael Green, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for economic development, welcomed the fact that the A582 plan had been put forward for consideration.
“We’re pleased that TfN has recognised the strength and quality of our proposals for the widening of the A582.
“The widening work will add capacity, improve access to new housing areas and local communities, and open up new opportunities for business. This will benefit people in South Ribble, Preston and further afield, helping to grow our economy.
“We’re always keen to make the most of opportunities to bring additional funding to Lancashire, so that we can make schemes happen.”
ONE STEP AT A TIME
The process of creating two lanes of traffic in each direction between Cuerden and Preston city centre has been an incremental one.
Earlier in the decade, the section of the A582 which runs along Golden Way between the flyover and Broad Oak roundabout, was dualled along its entire length. The two roundabouts at each end of this section - at the junctions with Leyland Road and close to Booths supermarket - have seen an increase in capacity and had new traffic signals installed, featuring enhanced crossing facilities for walkers and cyclists.
The Broad Oak roundabout will form a junction with the Penwortham bypass when it opens early next year.
Several junctions along the A582 have been upgraded to two lanes on their approaches in recent years to tackle bottlenecks along the route by increasing capacity and introducing traffic signals. Junctions at Pope Lane, Chain House Lane, Flensburg Way (the 'Tank' roundabout) and Stanifield Lane have all seen investment to prepare them for the planned works to make the entire route a dual carriageway.
A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “A planning application is to be submitted at the beginning of next year to complete the widening work and alter the remaining junctions serving Croston Road and Lancashire Business Park, and the roundabout connecting Longmeanygate, Comet Road and Schleswig Way.
“Subject to the scheme being granted planning permission, attention will turn to assembling the necessary land to accommodate the widened carriageway and associated cycle and pedestrian footway, along with drainage, landscape planting and screening and ecological measures.”
The plans for the A582 would leave only one gap in the jigsaw to create a complete dual carriageway between Cuerden and the M55 motorway - a new bridge over the River Ribble.
Back in 2016, a report for the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership laid out a vision for an ambitious project which would connect a newly-widened A582 to the new Penwortham bypass - before spanning the river and joining up with the Preston Western Distributor Road to the north west of Preston. At the time, the latter scheme had yet to be given the green light, but the go-ahead for it finally came earlier this year.
The document acknowledged that any bridge would not even start to be built before 2026, but talk of the concept has since gone quiet.
However, the Lancashire Post revealed in January that a new Ribble crossing still featured in long-term transport plans for the county - although its development was far from guaranteed.
Lancashire County Council’s head of planning, Marcus Hudson, told a joint meeting of Central Lancashire councils that a bridge would have to prove its worth.
“It’s about how you build a business case for something of that scale,” he said at the start of the year.
“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 the [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.