Questions over £500k bus cash funding pot

The Residence. The conversion of the landmark Lancaster Moor Hospital
The Residence. The conversion of the landmark Lancaster Moor Hospital

Bus campaigners in Lancaster are asking Lancashire County Council to explain why no action has been taken to improve a local bus service despite funding having been made available three years ago.

Lancaster Bus Users Group is urging the authority to say why the bus service to the new Moor Hospital housing development has not been enhanced amid fears that the funding provided is being diverted to other purposes.

Jim Davies, chairman of the group, said: “The developers of the Moor Hospital site were required, as part of the planning permission, to make available a sum of £500,000 for sustainable transport improvements including an improvement to the timetable of bus service 18 that serves the site as well as Williamson Park and Lancaster Farms prison.

“Despite the money having been passed to the county council in 2012 nothing has been done to improve the service and there are many rumours that the council intends to spend the cash on road improvements instead.”

Mr Davies said requests from the group to the council for information on progress have gone unanswered.

Bus operator Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire has reduced the number of buses on the service to four a day instead of hourly, citing, according to the Bus Users Group, a lack of funding. It is currently operating the service as a commercial venture without subsidy. Mr Davies added: “The group understands the financial position the council is in when it comes to funding bus services, but this money has been specifically provided for the purpose as part of a legal agreement and it is a disgrace that it has not been spent as required by law.”

In a letter to the group, Lancaster City Council’s planning department said it had been “chasing the county council for years” to ensure the money was spent in the way it was originally intended.

Bus service 18 operates between Lancaster city centre and Moorlands, Williamson Park, Grab Lane, Lancaster Farms and Freehold.

Daniel Herbert, network manager for Lancashire County Council, said: “The developer funding is currently with the city council and can only be used by the county council to improve services once we have agreed how it is to be spent with the city council, and have received the funding.

“The agreement made between the city council and the developer is to spend some of the funding to improve bus services, and some to improve public transport and road safety infrastructure.

“In order to help the city council decide how much of the funding to make available for each aspect, the county council is due to carry out some initial design work to provide the city council with indicative costs for the transport infrastructure improvements. We’re currently in discussions with the city council to secure some of the funding to allow this design work to go ahead.”