What has happened to the plans for Penwortham town centre now the bypass has been built?
There is uncertainty about who will deliver promised work to redesign the main route through Penwortham – and what the revamped town centre will look like.
Liverpool Road is set to be overhauled following the opening of the town’s bypass late last year, with the aim of making it more attractive for pedestrians and cyclists now that far fewer vehicles are travelling along its length.
But nearly two months on from completion of the long-awaited dual carriageway, a question mark hangs over funding for the upgrades to the town centre itself.
Papers presented to a meeting of South Ribble Borough Council’s cabinet reveal that a review of the Preston and South Ribble City Deal has seen some initial work “put on hold”.
The City Deal – the infrastructure delivery project designed to help accommodate thousands of new homes in the region – funded the £17.5m bypass and also set aside cash for enhancements elsewhere in the town.
Cabinet members at South Ribble have now committed to developing a Penwortham masterplan – indicating that they will fund urban design work this year and then start delivering town centre improvements in 2021/22.
But David Howarth, who represents the area on the town, borough and county councils, says responsibility for any major highways changes rests with the authorities behind the bypass – who were granted planning permission on the condition that measures would be introduced to reduce the appeal of Liverpool Road to through traffic.
“I’ve recently met with officers at County Hall about the district centre. The City Deal funded some works in Bamber Bridge, so Liverpool Road shouldn’t be forgotten.
“Penwortham is a vibrant centre – people are snapping up the empty units, which is very much against the trend for vacant shops.
“That can only be helped by improvements to the public realm. The footpaths in particular need sorting and maybe South Ribble could do something with the bus shelters and seating,” Cllr Howarth said.
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.
Three fully-formed designs – including the creation of a central boulevard and a “narrow meandering high street” – were put forward by Lancashire County Council as far back as 2013, but did not feature in the most recent consultation.
Cllr Howarth said feedback he received at the time suggested that the public were “not impressed” with the ideas.
No individual design has been formally adopted as the basis of any proposed scheme for the town. However, a City Deal document from last year states that “concept designs” have been approved.
The most recent published update on City Deal projects – for the second quarter of 2019/20 – shows that £808,000 has been allocated for improvements to the Hutton to Higher Penwortham corridor. Some of that was set to cover the cost of redesigning the junction of Liverpool Road with the new bypass and remodelling of the Leyland Road roundabout at the other end of the town following the closure of the sliproad onto the Golden Way flyover.
A segregated “cycle superhighway” is also planned to run from Hutton to Preston city centre.
A spokesperson for the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal said: “As part of the management of the City Deal, the programme is routinely reviewed, which enables effective forecasting and ensures the optimum pace of delivery.”
‘YOU COULD PUT DUCKS ON THE PUDDLES’
Russell Clayton, who has worked at Penwortham Garage for over 30 years, says there is “nothing wrong with Liverpool Road as it is”.
“They just need to tidy it up a bit. Since the bypass opened, they’ve resurfaced a section from Howick Cross – but it’s the footpaths which are a disgrace.
“There are puddles everywhere on the pavements – you could put ducks on them.
“But you don’t need to go to drastic measures altering the layout of the place,” Russell added.
25,000 per day – vehicle trips through Penwortham before the bypass opened
7,000 – predicted number of vehicle trips through Penwortham after the bypass
Source: LCC modelling