Almost 50 years since it was first discussed, a key new road is set to open in South Ribble.
Work is now well underway on the Cross Borough Link Road (CBLR) between Carrwood Road in Walton-le-Dale and The Cawsey/Leyland Road in Penwortham, that has long been heralded as a way to open up access to the A6, motorway networks and drive more people to invest in the local economy.
The scheme, which involves a road bridge over the Preston Junction nature reserve, is being paid for by Morris Homes, which is building 281 homes on the former gas works site off Leyland Road.
The new road - first mooted in 1971 - has been beset by problems and delays, but now it can be revealed that it is set to open in March.
South Ribble Council leader, Councillor Margaret Smith, hailed the road development as a “long-cherished dream”.
She said: “It’s a wonderful thing, and I’m very pleased that it’s becoming a reality. It’s an important part of a much bigger jigsaw, that will help open up the borough and relieve congestion.
“It’s taken a heck of a long time to get to get to this point, and a lot of work has gone into it.”
In 2013, South Ribble Borough Council passed plans to build the CBLR and landowner National Grid announced it was confident of signing up a house builder by January 2014, with work predicted to begin in early 2015. But time slipped and it was only in 2015 that Morris Homes and National Grid were given joint approval for 281 dwellings on the site.
Two years ago, National Grid admitted there had been “some issues” between parties stopping progress, with some councillors calling the scheme ‘Never Never Land’ and accusing South Ribble Council of being “impotent”, allowing problems between landowners and developers to hold the project up.
Following the sale of the land by National Grid, work finally began in May last year, with no publicity.
A spokesman for Morris Homes said: “We are always happy to be part of delivering infrastructure and facilities for local communities”.
Coun Cliff Hughes, who represents Lostock Hall and is cabinet member for strategic planning and housing, said: “It’s taken a long time, but it’s had to be done in the context of developing the old gas works site.
“The bridge is now well-on, and that was one of the main issues. As a council, it was one of our main concerns that only so many homes could be built before the bridge was in place. We have been quite adamant on that, to make sure that this bridge is put in place and there is development at the Carrwood Road side.
“There has been a lot of sweat and toil been put into this, but it’s very positive to see things coming together.”
There have been mixed views from residents either side of the new road. Residents living near to The Cawsey are said to be happier about the development than those living on or near to Carrwood Road, who suffered from problems of dust during hot weather, and are unhappy about the loss of a cul-de-sac location.
County Councillor Joan Burrows, who represents Penwortham East and Walton-le-Dale, said: “It will take some congestion off Leyland Road and for residents of The Cawsey, it will offer better access to London Road and the motorway.
“For Carrwood Road, residents have been unhappy, but resilient. They have got through it and in a few months, they will see the results.
“It will have benefits for these residents though too, they will be able to nip across to Penwortham more easily and maybe visit the shops in Liverpool Road.”
Lancashire County Council highways chiefs will have to inspect the road before it is signed off and adopted.
The council has been kept informed of the progress and has advised on traffic calming measures for both The Cawsey and Carrwood Road, as residents on either side have expressed concerns over speeding and a rat-run developing.
Lancashire County Council declined to comment on the new road development, however, it is known that highways chiefs have advised on ‘pedestrian refuge islands’ being installed on the extended section of The Cawsey, to help people crossing, and to deter overtaking on the approach to the junction.
The Cross Borough Link Road will be the main access to the new homes, delivered by means of a signalised junction.