Plan for 'crucial' new A582 dual carriageway between South Ribble and Preston is being 'rethought'

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Highways bosses are drawing up what they have described as “revised proposals” for a longstanding project to turn one of the busiest routes between South Ribble and Preston into a dual carriageway.

It is not yet clear which elements of the widening of the A582 - between its junction with Watkin Lane in Lostock Hall and the Broad Oak roundabout in Penwortham - might be rethought. The scheme has been on the cards for almost a decade and a planning application for it was submitted in February 2020.

However, the dualling of the four-mile stretch - along which traffic is often at a crawl during peak times.- has never got past the design phase, with the vision seemingly driven off the road by funding issues.

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That appeared to change back in October when the proposal was identified in the government’s new Network North strategy as one of the transport projects to be paid for with a share of the cash saved by the decision not to build the Birmingham-to-Manchester leg of the HS2 railway line.

The A582 is often slow-moving during rush hourThe A582 is often slow-moving during rush hour
The A582 is often slow-moving during rush hour
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New A582 South Ribble to Preston dual carriageway 'to be funded with scrapped HS...

Yet the stalled scheme still did not seem to have much prospect of restarting when it came up for discussion at a recent meeting of South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee, where it emerged that an application to build small business units on a former farm site just off the A582 could get in the way of any newly-widened route.

Concerned members of the authority’s planning committee quizzed council officials about the potential impact of such a clash.

However, senior planning officer Lisa Matthewson said that the matter had recently been discussed with Lancashire County Council and that the case officer for the planning application - which would be decided by County Hall rather than South Ribble - had said they were “not aware of anything that was incoming” about the project.

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The proposed dualling of the A582 is now set to be funded with the help of axed HS2 cash - but what will the exact plans look like?The proposed dualling of the A582 is now set to be funded with the help of axed HS2 cash - but what will the exact plans look like?
The proposed dualling of the A582 is now set to be funded with the help of axed HS2 cash - but what will the exact plans look like?

The Lancashire Post approached the county council about the status of the scheme and a spokesperson said: “We are currently working on revised proposals for the A582 with the aim of adding capacity along this part of the road network.

"We need to take into account changes to people's work and travel arrangements post-Covid, as well as other factors such as local housebuilding, to help us to develop appropriate proposals.

"Any future proposals will have opportunities for public consultation, in line with the usual process for a planning application."


The A582 at one of its bottlenecks where the road narrowsThe A582 at one of its bottlenecks where the road narrows
The A582 at one of its bottlenecks where the road narrows

The A582 widening was one of the infrastructure projects intended to be funded under the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, an agreement reached with the government a decade ago and designed to enable the creation of 17,000 homes and 20,000 new jobs across Central Lancashire.

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In 2019, it was estimated that the South Ribble Western Distributor - as the scheme is known - would cost £77m, but it emerged at a City Deal meeting in March that year that the plans were facing “budget pressures”. Subsequent bids for funding to plug the gap failed and progress appeared to have halted, although the approaches to some key junctions along the route have already been widened in anticipation of a full dualling at some point.

Meanwhile, in 2020, campaigners opposed to the controversial 1,100-home Pickerings Farm development produced a dossier claiming that the likely price tag for the road upgrade was actually £121m.

South Ribble Borough Council leader Paul Foster has repeatedly said that the huge estate must not be built until the A582 is dualled, but the authority’s refusal of permission for Pickering's Farm was last month overturned by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove. His decision followed a public inquiry in 2022 at which the issue of road capacity dominated the discussion.

The roundabout junction at Stanifield Lane, Lostock Lane, Watkin Lane and Farington Road is where one end of the widening works would beginThe roundabout junction at Stanifield Lane, Lostock Lane, Watkin Lane and Farington Road is where one end of the widening works would begin
The roundabout junction at Stanifield Lane, Lostock Lane, Watkin Lane and Farington Road is where one end of the widening works would begin

A huge element of the cost of the scheme lies in the need to construct two new bridges – one to carry the widened road over the West Coast Mainline, which would be built to the south of the existing structure so that the route could remain open during the works – and another to take the Preston to Ormskirk railway line across the newly-dualled road.

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The new Network North plan does not allocate a specific amount of cash for the South Ribble Western Distributor project, but it is listed as one of 21 “smaller road schemes” that will share £460m in funding.


South Ribble’s planning committee was considering an application to demolish existing buildings on the site of the former Model Farm, on Croston Road, and create 16 new units designed for small business start-ups.

Members heard that only two of the facilities would potentially impinge on a widened A582 - and that Lancashire County Council had compulsory purchase powers that it could use to acquire the necessary land in any case.

However, even the suggestion that the plans they were being asked to approve could put the brakes on such a long-held vision caused disquiet amongst some councillors.

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Cllr Mary Green said that the road widening was “crucial” to the City Deal because of the number of houses that have already been built in the area and how many more may yet appear in future. She said that the route faced going from “gridlock” to “a complete standstill” if the work was not carried out.

While fellow committee member Haydn Williams said that the A582 dualling had to be treated as “pie in the sky” until its delivery was confirmed, Cllr Peter Mullineaux warned of the potential piecemeal dismantling of the road project if similar applications to the one for Model Farm were approved.

“You [might] have a situation where [the county council] would say, ‘Well, it's not worth doing it now, [because] this is in the way [or] that’s in the way.’”

Cllr David Shaw added that he thought it “bizarre” for an applicant - in this case, Whitwell Properties Limited - would ”try to build an industrial estate on the basis that it is going to get knocked down in a few years”. However, he said that he could not see a planning reason for turning it down.

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Meanwhile, Sophie Marshall, the agent for the application, said that it was only around a month ago that Lancashire County Council approached the applicant to discuss the A582 plans - and “no mention” of them had been made during talks with both County Hall and South Ribble ahead of submitting the farm plans eight months ago.

“Accordingly the applicant proceeded with plans to develop the site in the best way considering highway [and] other consultee comments and greenbelt matters. All these have been addressed at great expense to the applicant.

“If Lancashire County Council [had] have approached us during the pre-applications, the applicant could have looked at [making] changes. However, we feel that this is now too late in the day,” said Ms. Marshall.

She added that while the applicant was aware of the planning application from 2020 in relation to dualling the A582, they understood that the scheme was either “on hold or nor proceeding”.

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Lancashire County Council did not formally object to the Model Farm plans, but recommended that they were “amended to avoid the road widening”.

Questions were also raised about whether the former dairy farm - which was more recently used for manufacturing, storage and retail purposes, according to the planning officer’s report - should really be classed as a previously developed site. That categorisation was key to determining whether the application for the start-up units, on what is a greenbelt plot, should be approved in any case - irrespective of the potential impact on the A582.

National planning policy suggests that building in the greenbelt can be acceptable if the land was previously developed and any new buildings do not have a greater impact on the “openness” of the site in question.

The new units proposed for Model Farm were considered by planning officers to meet that criteria, but Cllr Williams said that the site was wrongly being treated as a “commercial property, because planters and bird tables...have been made [there]”.

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“That is farm diversification…in my mind, [it] isn’t a commercial use….in a commercial industrial sense,” he explained.

After more than an hour of debate, there were proposals on the table for all possible options - to approve or reject the plans or defer the decision altogether. The committee voted - on the casting vote of the chair, Cllr Caleb Tomlinson - to defer in order to allow time to seek “clarity” on both of the key issues raised.

The application will be brought back before the committee at a later date.