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Much-delayed plans for A582 could be revived but questions linger

Posted on - 9th October, 2023 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Lostock Hall, Penwortham, Preston News, Redevelopment, Roads, Transport
Penwortham Way (A582)
Penwortham Way (A582)

Long-stalled plans to turn one of the busiest routes between South Ribble and Preston into a dual carriageway appear to have had new life breathed into them by the cancellation of the northern leg of HS2.

The widening of the A582 – between its junction with the A6 in Lostock Hall and the Broad Oak roundabout in Penwortham – has seemed an increasingly distant prospect in recent years, with a perennial question mark hanging over funding for the near decade-old vision.

However, it has now been named in the government’s new Network North strategy, which sets out how the £36bn saved by scrapping HS2 is purportedly going to be spent on a raft of other rail and road improvements instead.

Read more: Hope for ‘quick wins’ for rail network if government sticks to its word

The project – known as the South Ribble Western Distributor  – is the only transport upgrade for Lancashire that is specifically identified in the government document, although the county will share in a £2.5bn pot earmarked for as-yet-unnamed schemes in places that lie outside the “big city regions”.

However, the dualling of the A582 could have implications beyond a reduction in the gridlock that regularly dogs the route during rush hour. Current congested conditions on the road – and whether these might someday be alleviated by its conversion to dual carriageway – formed a key plank of the evidence at a public inquiry last year into a controversial proposal to build 1,100 homes on the Pickering’s Farm site in Penwortham.

As the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) revealed last month, the outcome of that inquiry – which is now to be decided by the government after ministers moved to give themselves the final say, instead of the planning inspector who chaired it – has been delayed for a third time.  It is not now expected until the end of November, 15 months after the hearings concluded.

South Ribble Borough Council leader Paul Foster told the inquiry that he did not believe the A582 could cope with the increased traffic that would result from the estate if it were not widened – and so said that the development should not be given the green light until that was the case.  The authority has twice refused planning permission for the homes for a range of reasons, including various road-related concerns.

Speaking to the LDRS about the appearance of the dualling scheme in the Network North plans, Cllr Foster said that he would always “welcome investment” into the borough. However, he added that the timing – after the latest delay to the inquiry result –  “smells a little bit fishy”.

“This does not change anything [regarding Pickering’s Farm]…because the infrastructure has to go in before any development.

“I have little confidence, unfortunately, that [the dual carriageway] will be delivered in a timely manner – within the next five or 10 years. Therefore, our planning view on Pickering’ Farm does not change at all.

“It actually hardens my view [about] protecting the local community from this, because making this announcement to try and open up [a potential] 1,500 houses in a completely unsustainable area – we’re not having it,” Cllr Foster added.

Last month, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities told the LDRS that the hold-up to the Pickering’s Farm decision was because  “more time [is] needed to consider the case”.

Meanwhile, South Ribble’s Conservative MP Katherine Fletcher said that she was “absolutely delighted that [the A582] is getting the priority it needs”.

“It’s a car park at five o’clock in the evening – a major traffic snarl-up spot.  I have been hammering on about it and I managed to get it into the Liz Truss mini-budget last year – and I have been hammering on to get it reincluded [into the current government’s plans since],” Ms. Fletcher said.

On the issue of Pickering’s Farm and the interplay between the outstanding inquiry decision and the dualling of the A582, she noted that the land for the estate – between Penwortham Way and Leyland Road – was earmarked for development in South Ribble’s soon-to-be-replaced local plan.

“I’d be happy to work with Cllr Foster to make sure it’s the right outcome, but…I’d encourage him and Chorley [Council] to get a local plan together, because that’s what gives residents certainty.”

All three Central Lancashire district councils – South Ribble, Chorley and Preston – have been working on the creation of the first ever local plan to cover the trio of local authority areas collectively.  The first of several rounds of public consultation took place earlier this year and – subject to approval by a planning inspector – it is expected that the new joint plan will be in place by the summer of 2025.

Cash conundrum

The A582 widening project was one of those intended to be funded under the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, an agreement designed to unlock the cash for the infrastructure improvements needed to create 17,000 new homes and 20,000 new jobs across Central Lancashire.

Estimated in 2019 to cost £77m, it emerged at a City Deal meeting in March that year that the road scheme was facing “budget pressures”.   Subsequent funding bids in an attempt to plug the gap came to nought and progress appeared to have halted.

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

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.

The new Network North plan does not put a price tag on the overall South Ribble Western Distributor project, but it is one of 21 “smaller road schemes” that will share £460m in funding.

Cllr Foster questions whether enough money could be allocated to the project under those circumstances – and warns against failing to complete the works in full.

“The A582 cannot be dualled without doing all of it.  It would actually make matters far worse [to do only some sections], because it would bring more traffic into a real bottleneck.

“There’s no point in doing what they’ve done with HS2 and not finishing it,” Cllr Foster added.

The LDRS understands that no new cost estimate has been drawn up for the scheme since the £77m figure was arrived at in four years ago.  However, an updated forecast is now expected to be made in view of the inclusion of the project in the Network North plans.

In 2019, County Hall cabinet members approved the use of compulsory purchase powers, should they be needed, to acquire the land required for the route.  No properties would need to be demolished to make way for the road.

Where would be widened?

Several junctions along the A582 were widened in the late 2010s, both to add capacity and in preparation for the dualling of the entire route – including at Pope Lane, Chain House Lane and Stanifield Lane.

Under the South Ribble Western Distribution plans, the following sections of road would be converted into a dual carriageway:

A582 east-west for 1.4 miles along Farington Road and Flensburg Way – from the roundabout connecting Stanifield Lane and Lostock Lane to the ‘tank roundabout’, close to the Farington waste recycling centre.   New signal-controlled junctions will be introduced at Sherdley Road, Croston Road and the Lancashire Business Park, along with a shared cycle path and footway for the length of the route.

A582 north-south for 1.8 miles along Penwortham Way and Golden Way – between the ‘tank roundabout’ and Broad Oak roundabout (at the Brown Hare pub), where it will join with the dual carriageways of Golden Way and the Penwortham Bypass.  This stretch would also include a shared cycle path and footway.

B5253 Flensburg Way north-south for 0.8 miles – between the ‘tank roundabout’ and the roundabout connecting Longmeanygate, Comet Road and Schleswig Way, which will be upgraded to a signal-controlled junction.  Lancashire County Council said in 2019 that this part of the scheme was not included in the then £77m cost estimate.

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