A RIVAL road route is to be considered during a new examination of plans for the £123m Heysham-M6 link.
Supporters and opponents of the controversial road, which would link junction 34 of the M6 with the existing Heysham bypass, have been making their final arguments ahead of hearings to help decide whether the scheme should go ahead.
But planning inspector, Peter Robottom, will also consider the merits of the Lancaster Bypass Link (LBL), which was drawn up by resident Mike Dickinson and is backed by Morecambe Town Council.
The LBL would follow a slightly different course from the western route previously ruled out, beginning at a new junction 33a close to Lancaster University.
It would cross Ashton Road north of Stodday, passing west of Aldcliffe and the Marsh estate, where there would be a new roundabout built before the road crosses the River Lune and joins Ovangle Road.
Mr Robottom asked the town council for a plan of the proposal, which it has now supplied, and is likely to consider the route during two days of hearings on alternatives to Lancashire County Council’s current northern route.
He has not ruled out a visit to sites on the proposed LBL route.
Torrisholme resident and Morecambe town councillor, Linda Davies, who in 2008 mounted a failed attempt to stop the road in London’s High Court, said: “I think the LBL has a lot of advantages.
“It could provide a spur off towards the new housing estate planned at St George’s Quay with a new bridge over the river and it would also enable people on that side of Lancaster to get to Morecambe, Heysham and the motorway without using the city centre.
“The northern route will hold up commuter traffic where it meets Morecambe Road and will not solve congestion for people getting between Lancaster and Morecambe.
“We welcome the fact the inspector is going to consider this route.
“However, if Lancaster’s traffic problems could be sorted out some other way that would still be preferable, because if you build more roads you create more traffic.”
Consultation into the council’s new plans, drawn up after it was forced to alter the scheme to cut costs, has seen more than 300 people and organisations make their views known.
The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), which is examining the plans, has also received 46 more detailed written representations and comments on all responses received are invited until next Thursday, May 31.
Local campaign group, Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe (TSLM), has been joined in its objections by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Campaign for Better Transport and transport specialists the North West Transport Roundtable.
Its fears the road will not reduce congestion in Lancaster, will not create the jobs claimed, will increase pollution and will damage the environment.
Many residents have opposed the proposal and there are several objections from people in Torrisholme and Halton.
But most responses from businesses support the road.
Bob Sutton, divisional operations manager at Peterson SBS, which offers off-shore services to the oil and gas industries from Heysham Harbour, said: “In our view the M6 link road is vitally important for the future growth potential of Peterson SBS’s Heysham base and also for the future prosperity of the wider region.
“The road will significantly ease congestion in and around Lancaster and will allow our vehicles and our suppliers’ vehicles better and safer access to the port.”
The examination by the IPC will end in October, after which Mr Robottom will have three months to make a recommendation to the secretary of state for transport, who will then have another three months to make a final decision.
The council hopes to begin construction of the road in summer 2013 and complete the work by late 2015.
Timetable for IPS examination of the Heysham-M6 link road plan – all hearings are at Lancaster Town Hall starting at 9.30am unless specified.
Monday, July 9, 2pm, meet at Lancaster Town Hall: Site visit, including Heysham Port
Tuesday, July 10 and Wednesday, July 11: Hearings on alternative options
Thursday, July 12 and Friday, July 13: Hearings on traffic flows and noise assessments
Tuesday, July 17: Open floor hearing – arguments for and against road
Wednesday, July 18: Open floor hearing, Torrisholme Methodist Church, Norwood Drive, Torrisholme – venue and time tbc
Thursday, July 19: Open floor hearing if required, site visits if not
Tuesday, July 24 and Wednesday, July 25: Hearings into compulsory acquisition of land for scheme, including site visit to Lancaster and Morecambe College on July 25, plus hearing on changes to the draft development consent order
Thursday, July 26 and Friday, July 27: hearing on changes to the draft development consent order plus any further site visits
Monday, July 30-Friday, August 3: Any further site visits
Monday, September 3-Friday, September 7: Any further hearings required