Council leader Jennifer Mein squelched through ankle deep mud at the site of the £24.3m Broughton Bypass and confessed: “This day has been a long time coming.”
Work officially began on the long-awaited relief road yesterday – more than 40 years after it was first suggested.
And wielding a ceremonial spade at a ground-breaking ceremony on farmland by the side of the A6, County Hall chief Coun Mein admitted: “This is a very big day.
“It is a long time since people first mooted the necessity of a bypass for Broughton, so I am absolutely thrilled.
“For the people of Broughton village this is very, very important. Their lives have been blighted with standing traffic and the air quality has been very bad. It has also made it difficult for local children to get to and from school. It will take about 90 per cent of the traffic away from the village, which I think is absolutely fantastic.”
An impressive line-up of VIPs donned wellies and hi-vis jackets to signal the start of a project which has been more than four decades in the making and will take around 12 months to complete.
The party included Edwin Booth, chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Jim Carter, chairman of the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal Board, Coun Peter Rankin, leader of Preston City Council and LCC’s cabinet member for highways and transportation, Coun John Fillis.
Coun Fillis said: “This is a vital scheme because we are turning the infrastructure from a town into a city and that’s the important part. It will generate employment and generate new homes.
“Basically this is the beginning of Preston developing. But it is also vital for South Ribble and also as we move towards Blackpool and the Fylde. It is connectivity and that’s what people want.
It is a long time since people first mooted the necessity of a bypass for Broughton, so I am absolutely thrilled.Council leader Jennifer Mein
“Yes, it has been a long time coming. Forty years or more to be done. But I wouldn’t call it 40 years of misery for the people of Broughton because everybody has been faced with an increase in traffic over the years.
“What we are looking to do is streamline that traffic and make it flow better. This will be a great improvement for Broughton village and a great improvement for those who travel through the area.
“So it’s an exciting day.”
Contractors Hochtief expect to have the bypass up and running by February or March next year.
When the first vehicles make the journey of almost two kilometres from the A6/M55 roundabout around the east of the village and back on to the A6 around 400 yards north of the notorious bottleneck junction, it will bring to an end a controversial campaign which has gripped Broughton for decades.
The idea of a bypass was first mooted back in the 1970s.
But public connsultation on the route of a relief road began in 1991 and the first planning application was submitted 15 years ago.
With an estimated 25,000 vehicles a day passing through the village, drivers have suffered long delays at peak times and Broughton has had air quality problems for almost 20 years.
“It isn’t good for your health when you are breathing in traffic fumes,” added Coun Mein. “So for most of that to be alleviated by this bypass is great.
“I know some people will say that it won’t be enough. But I think it will make such a huge difference to the local people.”
Timeline for the long-awaited road
1970-76: Concerns first raised about increasing congestion in Broughton village.
1986: A campaign to build a bypass to take traffic around the village is launched.
1991: Public consultation begins on two proposed routes for a bypass. Route B, roughly today’s layout, is chosen.
1997: An air quality and noise assessment indentifies problems around Broughton.
2000: Original planning application withdrawn and five alternatives are considered.
2001: LCC give planning permission to the revised bypass scheme.
2008: Planning permission from 2001 renewed.
2012: More pollution results in parts of the A6 in Broughton being designated an Air Quality Management Area.
2013: Scheme wins City Deal funding and is prioritised by the Local Transport Board.
2014: Further renewal of the 2008 planning permission. Scheme gets Growth Fund allocation.
April 2015: Six-day public inquiry is held in Fulwood in front of the Government inspector.
July 2015: Government gives the go-ahead to the bypass.
December 2015: Contract awarded to Hochtief (UK) Construction Limited.
January 2016: Work begins.