REVEALED: Preferred route for new South Lancaster link road - and a city centre charging zone being considered
A massive roadbuilding scheme designed to facilitate the creation of at least 3,500 new homes to the south of Lancaster has moved further into view after a preferred route was identified for the transformative project.
The scheme - set to cost up to an estimated £106m - will see a new road constructed to connect the M6 and A6 to the proposed new housing areas that will make up the Bailrigg Garden Village.
The plans involve the radical redesign of junction 33 of the M6, with two of its slip roads being relocated just under two miles north of their current location.
A spine road for the planned village development will also be created to open up the land on which the homes will be built - and will include construction of an underpass running beneath the West Coast Mainline.
Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has now approved the course that the link road should take - although it will still require planning approval from the government, because of the significance of the scheme.
Known as “Central 1”, the one-and-a-half-mile route will start at junction 33 and closely follow the path of the motorway in a northerly direction.
Located just to the west of the M6, it will bypass Galgate and head through to a point immediately south of Lancaster University.
There, it will connect to the displaced northbound entry and southbound exit slip roads of the M6 - and link in with the spine road planned along an upgraded Hazelrigg Lane.
The route option was selected after the county council assessed six possibilities based on a series of criteria, including environmental and feasibility issues.
It was also the favoured route of the public in a consultation which took place late last year - with 39 percent of over 450 respondents selecting it.
“From an environmental perspective, it reduces air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions and archives a greater relief of congestion,” Michael Green, member for economic development, environment and planning, told a cabinet meeting at County Hall.
“For a practical reason, it is more feasible to construct it and, importantly, it’s also the preferred option of the public.
“It's part of our very significant ambitions for the north of the county to open up [that area] to growth and, working with the government, we will achieve a great scheme.”
At the same meeting, the authority also agreed to the use of compulsory purchase orders - should they be necessary - to acquire the land required for the work. However, members were told that “negotiations” with affected landowners were due to begin immediately.
Documents presented to the meeting reveal that Central 1 was the only one of the six options ranked as having “high potential” to reduce air pollution impact.
It scored nine ‘green-rated’ assessments across a total of 16 criteria - more than any other proposed route. Particular benefits highlighted were its potential to reduce the risk of flooding and to protect and enhance the distinctiveness of the heritage of a 5km surrounding area.
The route found favour for being “almost straight” and having the lowest gradient of any of the options considered - three percent - thereby making it more feasible from an engineering perspective.
It was also judged to have less impact on the Forest of Bowland area of outstanding natural beauty than proposals for routes further to the east.
The road will have speed limits of 40mph and 60mph at different points along its length, with changes in speed occurring at junctions in order to make it “less confusing” for drivers.
Shaun Turner, cabinet member for health and wellbeing and county councillor for the Wyre Rural East division, welcomed the potential benefits of the project to Galgate, which, he said, often sees traffic “queuing through the village”.
Cabinet members also approved the start of the procurement process for the construction of the road. While the contract value has been put at £106m, bidders will not be expected to provide a “verifiable estimate” of the cost of their proposal, due to the fact that design work for the project - which is being carried out by the county council - remains at an early stage.
Companies interested in the work will instead be asked to submit “target costings”. Evaluation of price will form just 10 percent in the weighting of the assessment of the bids, with the overwhelming consideration being quality and technical issues.
The split reflects “the importance of appointing a quality supplier that has the knowledge and expertise to undertake the construction phase of the project”, a cabinet report states.
It adds: “The early appointment will enable the contractor to provide advice during the design phase, utilising their experience and knowledge of the latest construction methods to ensure that the construction phase can be completed at the optimum price.”
The roads project is part of the £261m “South Lancaster Growth Catalyst” programme, for which £140m was provisionally allocated by the government in last year’s budget under the Housing Infrastructure Fund.
The wider scheme is designed to create the capacity for 5,000 homes in South Lancaster, as well as the 4,000 new students and 3,000 new jobs forecast to come to the Lancaster University campus by 2027.
A three month public consultation into the Bailrigg Garden Village was launched by Lancaster City Council last month, which will inform the creation of a masterplan and design code for the development.
The Development Consent Order process to obtain permission for the link road and junction reconfiguration will require examination of the proposal by the planning inspectorate, before the matter is ultimately decided by the government. That process is likely to begin in spring 2023 and last around 18 months - meaning work on site would start no earlier than 2025.
SHOULD DRIVERS HAVE TO PAY TO TRAVEL THROUGH LANCASTER CITY CENTRE?
A consultation was also carried out on plans to overhaul the way traffic moves through Lancaster city centre.
Eight options were put to the public, with three now being shortlisted for further assessment. One of them would lead to the creation of a “clean air zone” in the city, which most motorists would be charged to enter.
Cabinet members were told that the trio represent “a good spread” of choices for managing levels of traffic and encouraging and prioritising sustainable travel.
A preferred option will ultimately be selected and sent back out for further public consultation towards the end of the summer.
The three options are:
Sustainable Travel Corridor East
Splits the gyratory in two - two-way traffic for all vehicular traffic would be allowed on the western arm of the gyratory, with the eastern arm prioritised for sustainable travel only. However, service vehicles and some limited local access would be provided.
City Centre Clean Air Zone
The city centre would become a clean air zone - with all vehicular traffic travelling through the city centre subject to a £12 charge, except for exemptions. Under this option, the western arm of the gyratory would be used for vehicular traffic utilising the clean air zone, with the eastern arm used as a sustainable travel corridor.
No Through City Centre Traffic
Designed to limit through traffic using the city centre, this option would see the eastern arm of the gyratory prioritised for sustainable travel, with the western arm allowing two-way traffic for access, while a section at China Street would be fully pedestrianised.
Source: Lancashire County Council
WHAT LANCASTER CITY COUNCIL SAYS
Lancaster City Council's cabinet member for Economic Regeneration and Planning, Janice Hanson, said: “Lancaster City Council’s adopted its new local plan last summer which sets out much development is needed in the district over the next 10 years to provide the homes and jobs to support a growing economy. Accommodating this growth will need new infrastructure and new approaches about how residents, visitors and businesses use the local transport network, especially Lancaster City Centre.
“The city council has been working in partnership with Lancashire County Council to explore what new infrastructure and transport measures are needed to support development, especially the proposed Bailrigg Garden Village in South Lancaster, while also improving the quality of the experience for those living, working, visiting and using services in Lancaster City Centre. We will continue to work with the county council as work progresses on drawing up a masterplan for Bailrigg Garden Village, and this will be the basis for a new local development plan for South Lancaster.
“Following consultations at the end of last year, Lancashire County Council, the local transport and highways authority, has made a significant decision about the route of a new link road from a re-designed Junction 33 that will give access to the proposed Bailrigg Garden Village and has also decided which three of eight possible options to explore for managing transport and movement in Lancaster City Centre.
“A key principle of the project to reconfigure the city centre’s road network will be the creation of a more-welcoming environment for cyclists and pedestrians, and more direct routing of buses through the city. The city council is pleased to note that the city centre options selected by the county council for further analysis involve ambitious change, and that this has the potential to contribute positively to more vibrant, pleasant streets with better air quality. Above all, the options that have been selected provide the greatest opportunity to beneficially change travel behaviours, and the work being undertaken will be a key component of the city council’s climate emergency response as the district transitions to a low-carbon future,” Cllr Hanson added.