Fresh roadworks at a congestion blackspot have sparked fears of traffic chaos in the north of Preston for the next three months.
Workmen move in on Monday to widen a stretch of Eastway in Fulwood to serve a new mini-retail park at its junction with Oliver’s Place.
But a protest group opposing over development in the north of the city has predicted the effect on the area’s road network - already choked at peak times - will be “absolutely horrendous.”
And a former city councillor has accused planners of lacking “joined up thinking” by starting the work at the same time as ongoing roadworks causing hold-ups two miles away on the same ring road.
“I despair,” said Christine Abram, who stood down as a Tory member of Preston Council last May after almost 20 years.
“I just don’t understand the logic of starting a second lot of work on such a busy road when another is already causing problems. Drivers will be tearing their hair out.”
Construction of a new roundabout at the junction of Lightfoot Lane and Tom Benson Way began in July last year in advance of the proposed East-West Link Road. Work is expected to continue until the summer.
Now motorists caught up in those tailbacks could find themselves facing further delays at temporary traffic lights in Eastway where thousands are employed on a huge business park.
Contractors have agreed to time the work to make sure it does not affect peak periods. But campaigners believe it will still have a major impact on traffic movement in the area.
Michelle Woodburn, who heads up the Goosnargh and Whittingham Against Overdevelopment protest group, is predicting yet more chaos in an already-congested area.
“There is far too much going on at the moment in the north of Preston,” she said. “It’s just horrendous and I can imagine it is only going to get even worse.
“For example, Haighton Green Lane is shut at the moment because of work on the sewers. That is making all the other little roads far busier.
“It seems like there is an incident every day because drivers are getting impatient. So adding to this by putting temporary traffic lights in Eastway is only going to make matters worse.
“It is going to add to the chaos that is already here. I travel along Eastway quite a bit and I can see the queues are going to be horrendous.
“The whole of the A6 corridor has reached its capacity and yet it doesn’t seem to matter what we all say. The council keeps on passing more and more building. It just beggars belief.”
Work has already begun on the mini-retail park on land opposite the old Lancashire Post building. The development will house shops, a warehouse, a gym, an Aldi supermarket and a Costa Coffee drive-through.
A mile up Eastway, just beyond the junction with the A6 Garstang Road, another mini-retail development was also given the council go-ahead recently. Plans show a small supermarket, six shops, a pub/restaurant and a drive-through cafe.
Both developments are intended to serve the huge house-building programme underway across the north of Preston.
In total around 5,300 new homes are planned, although only just over 800 have so far been built.
Conservative Councillor David Walker, who lives in the area, said: “I have sympathy with drivers facing more roadworks. But it has got to be done.
“The widening of this part of Eastway is part of the redevelopment of the area and there is no way round it.
“Look at the benefits 5,000 new homes should have, the jobs they will bring and the extra spending there will be in the city. It will be far better in the long-run.”
Former Tory colleague Christine Abram, who lives in the Cottam area where a large number of new homes are being built, is not convinced. She said: “It’s horrendous traffic-wise as it is and most of the houses have yet to be built.
“Try getting a young child to school or pick them up. You can never gauge how long it will take. Sometimes it can be 10 minutes, other times half an hour.
“I can’t understand the thinking behind a new set of roadworks while we already have one causing delays further up the same road. Why couldn’t they be phased?
“It seems no-one talks to each other. It’s crazy.”
Mini Retail Park
Costa Coffee will put the froth on the new mini-retail park being built at the junction of Eastway and Oliver’s Place.
The UK’s biggest cafe business is building a drive-through on the site opposite the old Lancashire Post offices in Fulwood, underlining the large number of people who work on the adjacent business park - many of them who arrive at work by car.
The site, which once accommodated the huge CCA greeting cards business, has planning permission for a supermarket, with Aldi rumoured to be the proposed occupant. There will also be a warehouse and a gym or health club.
The planned roadworks will start on Monday and are scheduled to continue through to March 31.
Contractors will widen part of Eastway and construct new street lighting. The work will also include the installation of crossings.
Contractors have agreed to suspend the work on Eastway at peak times in the hope of minimising traffic disruption.
A County Hall spokesman revealed that the improvements, being handled by a contractor on behalf of the site’s developer, would only be carried out between 9.30am and 3pm to avoid both morning and afternoon rush hour periods.
But signs warning of the upcoming roadworks advise drivers to “expect delays.”
A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “The work due to start next week is to widen Eastway at the approach to the junction with Oliver’s Place and Sherwood Way, and install a new Toucan crossing, which is a crossing suitable for pedestrians and cyclists.
“The road needs to be widened to allow for a central island for the crossing and to extend the two lane approach. There will also be improvements to the street lighting.
“The improvements are being carried out on behalf of the developer of the new retail park on the adjacent site as part of the agreed planning permission.
“It will be carried out off-peak between 9.30am and 3pm”
New Build Masterplan
More than 5,300 new homes are planned in an arc around the north of Preston.
Preston Council has given planning permission for at least 15 sites to be developed and there are lots more to come.
Figures released in November showed that the total number of houses so far given the go-ahead is 2,849 - or just over half of the required number. Of those only around 800 have been built.
To cater for an influx of new families into the city three schools are also on the drawing board - two primary and one secondary.
With traffic already a major issue, especially at peak times, planners have identified an urgent need to improve the road network.
So three new highways are being built with cash from the City Deal, with a new junction on the M55 a major priority to ease congestion at the current intersection at Broughton.
The Preston Western Distributor (PWD) will be a 2.5-mile dual carriageway linking the A583 Blackpool Road and the A5085 Riversway with the motorway.
The East-West Link will be a two-mile single carriageway joining Lightfoot Lane with the PWD. And the Cottam Link will be a 0.4-mile road connecting Cottam Way with the PWD.
In addition to the proposed Eastway work, Monday will also see the start of a project to link the road with D’Urton Lane to provide easier access for housing developments there.
A section of D’Urton Lane will be closed for six weeks while contractors divert a culvert, causing some local traffic to be re-routed onto Eastway. It will also be shut down between April and August.