Link road limbo threatens jobs

BUSINESS chiefs are urging the government to press ahead with the Heysham M6 link road - warning that hundreds of jobs and a £400million boost to the local economy could be at stake.

A Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce has produced a report showing how the area’s economy could lose out if the scheme falls victim to the crisis in the country’s public finances.

It looks at the impact the road could have on employment, as well as the potential for increasing trade, the regeneration of Morecambe and the positive effects on traffic movement.

But it also warns the axing of the road could mean businesses currently operating in Lancaster and Morecambe may have to relocate to ensure their continued success.

The report suggests the recent closure of the Reebok Warehouse, with the loss of 200 jobs, was due to accessibility problems.

A Lancashire County Council spokesman said that based on Department for Transport calculations, 900 new jobs would be created by 2020 on just a few industrial sites.

He added this did not take into account new jobs created in tourism, leisure or retail or existing jobs maintained that otherwise may have been lost.

Based on 2002 prices, it is estimated the road could be worth £409 million to the local economy over the next 60 years.

A Lancashire County Council cabinet meeting scheduled for yesterday, Thursday, was due to decide whether to scrap £1.3 million to be spent on preperatory plans for the road in view of the government’s decision to put major road building projects on hold.

Jon Price, president of Lancaster and District Chamber of Commerce said: “The government is looking to private sector businesses to create employment and generate wealth.

“We can only achieve that if government provides the right infrastructure to encourage investment.

“As residents and employees or employers, we must be prepared to look beyond the inconveniences that arise from such developments and consider the future for our economy.”

Deborah Grocott, general manager of Alfa Aesar, a chemicals company based at Heysham Port which employs 120 people, said that the company’s significant investment in the area was largely based on the fact that the link road would eventually be in place.

Alistair Eagles, managing director of Seatruck Ferries, which currently ships 100,000 trailers a year from Heysham Port to Northern Ireland, said the new road was vital if the port was to compete with other ports.

He said: “SeaTruck Ferries have recently invested €70 million in two new vessels specifically designed for the tight confines of Heysham Port, and our capacity now has the potential for a lot more transport.

“Fast and reliable access to the motorway network is essential and if this can be provided then Heysham has enormous potential and could become a significantly larger hub for Irish Sea trade with all of the economic advantages that this would bring to the area.”

But Morecambe town councillor Linda Davies, who challenged moves to build the road at the High Court, said: “The road might attract hundreds of jobs while it’s being built, but once it’s finished I can’t see there being anything extra for Morecambe people.

“I’m more concerned with protecting people’s well-being, and the character of places, than shaving half an hour off a car journey.”