It cost millions and was years in the making ... what has the Broughton by-pass done for the village of Broughton? Fiona Finch reports on a stretch of the A6 near Preston which is being reclaimed by local residents .
It is a strange and unexpected sensation. Walk along the A6 from Broughton crossroads and back towards Preston and it is like strolling in a garden suburb.
You notice the shops, you admire the flower beds ,you spot a car park. Soon you may even be stepping into a new community centre.
You can pause to inspect the former village animal pound , the Grade II listed Pinfold and see its neighbouring new drystone seating which is currently being built or even bike along the cycle lane.
As readers of this newspaper and local residents are well aware, not to mention the weary commuters who regulalry travelled along this route between north and central Lancashire, it was not ever thus.
For years and years residents and businesses complained - about the traffic jams, the pollution from vehicles, the lack of opportunity for customers to park and for locals to cross the road.
Broughton crossroads was in short notorious shorthand for long delays at commuter times and certainly not a place to stop.
Hope was all residents had for many years as promises of the £32 m bypass remained just that.
But now, after many decades, the bypass, first mooted in 1932, has taken not all, but the majority of traffic away.
The landscape has also changed following the demolition of the former landmark Golden Ball pub - later the Taste of Spice Indian restaurant. The prime site is now ripe for development.
Meanwhile one of the village’s two petrol stations has closed and new businesses are opening, including the Choppers barbershop.
It means it is time says the Parish Council, full name Broughton in Amounderness Parish Council, to reclaim and rebuild a sense of community.
It has put its money where its mouth is and taken the unusual and entrepreneurial step of purchasing a property - and not just any property- to become a new community centre and meeting place for residents.
The village’s former toll house is set to be transformed. It is an ambitious project for a small council and a lot of responsibility.
Council Chair Pat Hastings is confident that they most certainly have not overreached themselves.
She said the council expects to pay some £260,000 to purchase, refurbish and get the centre going. It had drawn up an action plan and was aware the increase in local development meant new community funds would be available tohelp meet costs. She said: “There was a very serious concern people wanted somewhere to have a brew, sit down and meet with people and we’ve moved on from that. We were looking to do things like health and welfare,if the police want a drop-in session, a community hub and cafe. We looked round. Initially we were going to lease somewhere.Then we had the opportunity offered us to buy the cottage.”
Following surveys and valuations they got the keys recently and are seeking planning permission for necessary changes.
But though confident of success the chairman counsels the property can always be “recycled” and sold as a house if the centre idea does not prove a winner.
The council is already known for being a waymarker. It produced its own neighbourhood plan which took just over three years to get be completed and approved.
Victory in getting it approved means the council has some influence over future development in the area.
The parish’s own action plan addresses needs - for affordable housing, downsizing properties and bungalows, social housing and shops. The council is also aware of the need to preserve local heritage.
Pat said: “For such a little place it’s got a heck of a lot of history. It was a toll road with the toll bar - it was quite a thriving community.”
She lists previous businesses which give an indication of Broughton’s past important crossroads’ role, at the junction of the A6 Garstang Road and Whittingham Lane, just four miles north of Preston. Enterprises included a saddlery, carriage works, blacksmith, clogger, two tailors, a Co Op, as well as two large coaching inns.
Blue heritage plaques are appearing, heritage walks have been arranged and new seating around the Pinfold will offer another community meeting point .Pat said:“I think we’ll get the village centre going again.”