Legal challenge to Preston-M55 link road is stopped after objectors give way

Computer-generated image of part of planned Preston Western Distributor Road
Computer-generated image of part of planned Preston Western Distributor Road
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A threatened legal challenge to a planned road linking the M55 motorway with north Preston has been dropped.

The future of the so-called Preston Western Distributor Road was thrown into doubt late last year after a landowner objected to the design of the scheme.

READ MORE >>> All you need to know about Preston-M55 link road and the 5,000 houses which go with it

Tom Barron Farms Limited – which owns part of a wider site earmarked for more than 5,000 new homes – wanted the road to include roundabout access to a proposed ‘garden village’ on their portion of the site known as the North West Preston Masterplan area.

The landowner, together with construction firm Robertson Group, also warned members of Lancashire County Council’s development control committee that they could be acting illegally if they granted planning permission for the route – and revealed that papers had been lodged with the high court.

Consultants representing the pair argued that the two-and-a-half mile dual carriageway was such a significant piece of infrastructure that the government should make the final decision via a process known as a development consent order.

But councillors gave the green light for the original design after the authority’s head of planning, Andrew Mullaney, told them that access to housing sites along the route was something to be decided when individual planning applications were made to Preston City Council.

Now, the Local Democracy Reporting Service can reveal that the threatened legal action failed to materialise during the time allowed for objectors to seek a judicial review.

A spokesperson for Robertson Group said the firm was now “working closely with Lancashire County Council to develop options to provide suitable access to the land owned by Tom Barron Ltd and will continue to do so over the forthcoming months”.

But the road ahead for the scheme is not yet clear, as the authority awaits the outcome of a separate planning inquiry into the compulsory purchase orders which it has issued to buy up the land required for the route. The hearing was held at County Hall last November, but the planning inspectorate has not yet reached a decision.

Meanwhile, funding for the link route – which will connect a new junction 2 on the M55 at Bartle with Blackpool Road in Preston – could also prove a roadblock.

Papers presented to a recent meeting of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) show that the project is rated as ‘amber’ and that there is a risk to the “security of funding should there be a programme delay”.

A business case is being prepared for submission to the LEP and the Department for Transport in the spring. The cost of delivering the road was revealed to have rocketed last year to £161m – £57m more than first forecast for the work, which will involve re-routing an aqueduct.

It is expected that just under half of the bill will be footed by the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, with Lancashire Growth Deal funding contributing £58m and £25m coming from the government for construction of the new motorway junction.

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “We await the outcome of the government’s public inquiry to consider objections to the compulsory acquisition of land for this road scheme.

“We hope for a positive outcome and, with the Secretary of State’s confirmation to the use of the county council’s compulsory purchase powers, we will be able to proceed to finalise the preparatory stages of this crucial project to improve the highway network in Preston.”

REASONS FOR THE ROAD

The Preston Western Distributor is considered vital to the building of more than 5,000 homes to the north west of Cottam, a project which will be developed in phases.

The highways scheme includes:

Preston Western Distributor Road – a 70 mph, 2.5 mile stretch of dual carriageway linking the A583 Blackpool Road and A5085 Riversway with a new junction 2 of the M55 motorway. Includes a shared cycleway and footway.

East-West link road – a 2-mile single carriageway, with speeds ranging from 20-40mph, linking Lightfoot Lane with the new Preston Western Distributor. 200m of the route has already been built, connecting to a new housing development which is already under construction. It will eventually connect to the Preston Western Distributor close to the Saddle Inn on Lea Lane.

Cottam link road – a short 0.4-mile route, connecting Cottam Way with the Preston Western Distributor.