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Battle between South Ribble candidates over plans to widen A582

Posted on - 2nd July, 2024 - 8:00am | Author - | Posted in - Penwortham, Preston News, Roads, South Ribble News, Transport
Penwortham Way (A582)
Penwortham Way (A582)

Two of the politicians vying to be South Ribble’s next MP have clashed over long-stalled plans to widen one of the borough’s busiest roads.

Labour candidate Paul Foster said it was “absolutely critical” that the A582 was turned into a dual carriageway between Lostock Hall and Penwortham – whatever the cost.

However, his Conservative counterpart Katherine Fletcher, who has represented the constituency since 2019, told him:  “Life isn’t like that.”

Read more: MP candidates clash over potential Lancashire-version of Andy Burnham

The pair were responding to a question at a hustings event ahead of next week’s general election.

Plans to dual the 3.2-mile stretch of routinely-congested road date back more than decade, but funding for the project – which was expected to be delivered as part of the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal – has never materialised.

Last year, it emerged that the route was in line for cash from the Network North’ initiative, under which the government has pledged to fund transport projects across the North and Midlands with the money saved by scrapping the HS2 rail line beyond Birmingham.

However, as the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed in March, Lancashire County Council has now opted to bid for a share of that funding on the basis of a project which would see several junctions along the A582 upgraded, rather than the road converted to a dual carriageway.  The revised option is estimated to cost almost £71m.

Asked by hustings host Paul Faulkner whether he wanted to see the A582 widening go ahead in full, even if it were to require well over £100m, Paul Foster said:  “It is absolutely critical to this constituency. that [the] A582 is dualled – therefore, we need to find the money, invest the money and build the road that is causing no end of issues to the people of South Ribble.”

Katherine Fletcher said she had not seen the latest Lancashire County Council plans, but described the A582 as a “car park” which needed a solution. However, she criticised Mr.Foster’s open-ended commitment to the dualling scheme.

“I think the illustrative comment was, ‘We need it dualling, it’s going to cost £100m,  I don’t know where we’ll get the money from, but we need it to happen.’

“Life isn’t like that – you’ve got to make tough choices and make sure you spend your money in the right way,” Ms. Fletcher added.

Mr. Foster claimed that while the Network North money had not yet been allocated by the government, the county council wanted to spend the majority of any such funding that did come its way on roads around the new cricket ground it is building in Farington and the industrial development planned for a nearby site in Cuerden that was once earmarked for an IKEA store.

Ms. Fletcher said while “the overall picture” was not yet known, she would support “anything that stops [the A582] being a car park”.

“I’m not a roads engineer, so I’m not going to say this particular solution solves the problem, but the government is making the hard decisions so we’ve got the money available to solve the problems,” she added.

Mr. Foster said he had seen an email which revealed Lancashire County Council was “waiting to consult, after the general election, with whoever is the MP of South Ribble at that point”.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrat candidate for the constituency, Ange Turner, said that while she thought the project would perennially be one “that just gets left”, she had a wider issue with transport policy in the UK.

“I actually feel, answering this honestly, we should be focusing more on public transport.  When I was living in Germany…we had the choice of a tram, an underground, a train or a bus service.

“And I really do get upset when I hear about road-building infrastructure, when actually we need a government that’s going to start focusing on public transport – because in the long term, that’s going to be best for our country and best for the environment,” Ms. Turner said.

Andy Turner, standing for Reform UK, said he was content to “let the people who are going to be in control fight this one out”.

All five candidates contesting the South Ribble seat were invited to take part in the hustings event, staged by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Lancashire Post, Lancashire Lead and Blog Preston.

The Green Party’s Stephani Mok was unable to attend.

Roads rethink

A report presented to a Lancashire County Council cabinet meeting in March – at which members approved the slimmed-down A582 scheme – was light on specifics about exactly how the route would be revamped under the revised plans.

However, it did highlight the Croston Road ‘double roundabout’ – where Flensburg Way meets Farington Road – and the Stanifield Lane roundabout at the junction with Lostock Lane as two junctions in line for an upgrade. A series of other junctions surrounding the Lancashire Central development have already been identified for major reconfiguration as part of that project.

“Sustainable travel corridor improvements” along roads including Leyland Road, Coote Lane, Chain House Lane and Croston Road are also flagged up – but not fleshed out.

In the 2010s, several junctions along the A582 were upgraded to two lanes on their approaches to tackle bottlenecks – and in preparation for what was then planned to be the dualling of the entire route. The junctions at Pope Lane, Chain House Lane, Flensburg Way – the ‘tank roundabout’ – and Stanifield Lane all underwent major changes.

According to the cabinet report, the new plan “removes the need for an extended programme of design, substantial land acquisition and complex rail bridge replacements”. Creating a dual carriageway over the West Coast Mainline is thought to have been one of the key barriers to bringing the original vision to fruition.

No mention was made of making the B5253 section of Flensburg Way a dual carriageway – between the tank roundabout and the roundabout connecting Longmeanygate, Comet Road and Schleswig Way. Although separately costed, that three-quarters-of-a-mile long scheme formed part of the original A582 dualling plans, under which the Longmeanygate roundabout was also planned to be upgraded to a signal-controlled junction.

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