Link road promise follows gridlock

The need for the long awaited road to link Fylde with the M55 is reaching crisis point after a recent accident left the area grid-locked.

Thursday, 23rd June 2016, 9:00 am
Standing traffic on Clifton Drive North towards St Annes from Starr Gate

Now both local and county council chiefs and the local MP have pledged they will work together to bring the project to fruitiion.

Fylde Council has been leading negotiations to put together a funding project to deliver the much needed replacement for Wild Lane and help considerably ease congestion on other roads between Blackpool and Fylde.

Meanwhile, Fylde’s MP Mark Menzies has also promised that all parties involved are focused on starting work as soon as possible after the latest bout of rush-hour gridlock left drivers fuming.

Lancashire County Council, the Local Enterprise Partnership, Highways England and Kensington Developments are the other parties involved in the talks which have been ongoing since the closure of Wild Lane – also known as the moss road – more than 18 months ago.

The aim is to put together a project to deliver a new fit-for-purpose road which will ease the current strain on Queensway and Clifton Drive but, more importantly, generate economic activity by unlocking development for more than 1,150 homes.

Along with £2 million from the LEP Growth Deal, the aim is to secure contributions from Lancashire County Council and Fylde Council and the possibility of additional funding through Highways England.

Fylde Council leader Coun Susan Fazackerley said: “It is essential that a new road is secured as soon as possible, one that is built in a single phase that is not reliant on the build out rate and the sales of property on the new development.

“The residents of Fylde as well as visitors and commuters who are vital to the local economy, need a road that can meet the demands of a growing and prosperous area.

“The closure of Wild Lane has caused severe traffic congestion for almost two years at considerable inconvenience to residents and visitors, but the road is inadequate to support the vibrant economy of the Fylde Coast.

“A repair of the existing road is not the solution, a replacement road without weight or width restrictions is the proposal we are working on with several partners.”

Coun Karen Buckley, the council’s deputy leader and chairman of the finance and democracy committee, added: “In order to deliver a replacement road that will support our economy and the local community, the council will be considering a financial contribution consistent with the commitment in our corporate plan to support growth that will promote prosperity for the area and secure long term ongoing revenue for the council.

“Fylde Council’s capital programme has grown over recent years with efficiency savings being put towards investment in the borough. This would be our most significant investment with the potential to improve motorway links, ease congestion and add to economic growth.”

An accident earlier last week caused Queensway, St Annes to be closed, causing extensive tailbacks along Clifton Drive North and Ballam Road, the only other available direct routes from Blackpool to St Annes and Lytham.

The incident again highlighted the urgent need for the link road. for which, in July 2014, the Government pledged to put forward £2m Growth Deal funding.

Mr Menzies is hopeful that work will begin soon.

He said: “I was delighted when I was able to help secure £2m Growth Deal funding to kick-start the new M55 Lytham St Annes link road, which is something that the area has desperately needed for many years.

“All the parties involved in building the road are now getting to a stage where complicated negotiations over funding and construction timetables are being finalised and hopefully we will see work begin soon.

“I am keenly aware of traffic problems in the area following the closure of the existing road.

“The negotiations which are ongoing are focused on ensuring that the route is reopened in the quickest time possible.”

John Moxham, chairman of St Annes Chamber of Trade, said the earliest possible start on the new road would be welcome – as the ongoing traffic chaos is a major frustration to everyone.

“Whenever there is an accident on either road, it is gridlock and even when the roads are clear on busy weekends, there are traffic jams because of the sheer weight of traffic,” he said.

“It is vital there is an extra option, as the traffic problems are beginning to undermine all the hard work that has gone into bringing extra visitors into the area.

“The housing developments around the area will mean extra vehicles on our road so it is vital we have the roads to cope.”

Traffic on the two roads between St Annes and Blackpool, particularly Queensway, has increased notably since the single-track moss road running closing to the intended Whitehills-Ansdell link and which many Fylde drivers used to reach the M55 was closed for ‘safety reasons’ in October 2014.

St Annes mayor Coun Cheryl Little, who is also chairman of Fylde Council’s tourism and leisure committee, said: “Transport has been highlighted as a crucial part of the recently-prepared St Annes Neighbourhood Plan. Our town and the number of visitors to it continues to grow and it is vital we have a right infrastructure in place.”

Lancashire County Council was approached by the Express for a comment but nothing was made available in time for our deadline.