A high court judge has thrown out an appeal against the building of the Heysham to M6 link road – meaning it can now finally go ahead.
Mr Justice Turner announced on Friday “there was no arguable case that the decision to grant development consent was unlawful”.
But campaigners say the fight against the road will still go on.
Work was due to start on building the £123m, three-mile road this summer after Patrick McLoughlin, Transport Secretary, gave final permission in March.
But campaigners Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe (TSLM) took legal action against the decision in a last-ditch attempt to stop the project.
A two-day hearing took place in Manchester in July.
TSLM contested the decision on five grounds: that the Secretary of State had no power to approve the road because it was not a nationally significant infrastructure project, the consultation process was flawed, national policy statements were wrongly taken into account, alternative routes were not considered and inadequate consideration was given to otter welfare.
Mr Justice Turner, after a 10-week deliberation, said none of the grounds proved the need for a judicial review.
He said: “The development consent process is thorough and comprehensive and it is overwhelmingly likely that consent would have been given regardless of the route by which it had been achieved.
“The time, cost and inconvenience of re-starting the process would render judicial intervention at this stage to be wholly disproportionate.”
County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “The link road was given development consent because there’s such a strong case for it in terms of value for money and the benefits to the economy and local transport it will bring.
“We’ve always been confident of the case for the road, which enjoys wide support from people and businesses in the area and I’m very happy that we are closer to getting on with the job.”
Vicky Lofthouse, manager of the Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce, said: “At long last we can finally see a start to this vital improvement to the whole district’s infrastructure.
“Having dealt with every planning issue imaginable, and proved time and again that the social and economic benefits outweigh any perceived negatives the removal of any uncertainty over the link’s future means businesses and residents can look forward to the project commencement and speedy completion.”
David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said: “I am incredibly pleased, the Heysham M6 link road will be the economic backbone of the area bringing jobs and improving our transport links.”
“A recent survey suggested that for every £1 invested in the road, the region will earn £6.”
“The link road will bring 3,000 jobs and will bring jobs to 100 unemployed people, I am delighted the road will go ahead and building can’t start soon enough!”
Amina Lone, who will stand for Labour against Mr Morris in the next election, said on Twitter: “Fantastic to hear. We can finally proceed & bring investment & jobs to #Morecambe&Lunesdale.”
Eric Ollerenshaw, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, said: “I am delighted at this news. It is such a pity that it has taken since 1948 to get this far, but now with much needed Government support we can finally get a by-pass for Lancaster!”
Coun Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “This is great news. As well as improving the district’s attractiveness to investors and creating new opportunities for growth, the improved accessibility it brings will also aid regeneration in some of the district’s more deprived areas.”
David Gate, chair of TSLM, said: “We’re sorry that the courts did not accept our legal case.
“The judge did accept that these were serious arguments, seriously presented, and he considered them seriously, Indeed, so serious were the arguments and the contradictions in the council’s case, that it took the judge 10 weeks to reach a decision.
“The judge did agree with us on some points, e.g. that the consultations were defective.
“We have taken legal advice, and that is that there are errors in the judge’s decision, and there are good grounds for a successful appeal against it. So we shall ask the courts for permission to appeal.
“It is an out-of-date scheme, and evidence continues to mount up against it. Now that scientists are saying that it is 95% certain that global warming is cased by humans, this is not the time to make that process worse by increasing harmful emissions and encouraging more car use.
“The cost is too high, and rising. The council has already spent £13m on design and preparation costs since 2005. Now it has written a blank cheque, to be drawn on Lancashire’s taxpayers, for £12m plus all overspend. It has recently increased that to £18m, before a sod has been cut. We estimate that a further £9m has been notched up already. The council’s errors and bungling have led to delays and extra costs, to the tune of £5m a year.
“The council should cut their losses and withdraw the scheme now.”
Lancashire County Council said delays caused by the legal action could increase the cost of the scheme by £600,000.
The road will link the junction of the A683 and A589 by Lancaster and Morecambe College with Junction 34 of the M6 motorway.
The project also involves a fully remodelled junction 34, with new slip roads, a new bridge over the River Lune and a 600 space park and ride.
An M6 link road was first mooted in 1948 but has been wracked with controversy with other routes looked at and rejected over the years.
Proponents of the road say it will boost the local economy, ease traffic congestion between Morecambe and Lancaster, and create jobs.
Opponents say it is a waste of money, will destroy green belt and make little difference to traffic.