South Lancaster transport proposals re-evaluated
A decision has been made to suspend further work on the proposed South Lancaster to M6 transport project and to re-evaluate the proposals.
This decision comes amid increasing costs driven by construction inflation in recent years, which have increased the pressures on and risk to the public purse, and other circumstances that would impact on the final delivery.
The proposed new South Lancaster to M6 road scheme would have included a new road between the M6 at junction 33 and the proposed garden village in south Lancaster, as well as a new Park and Ride on Hazelrigg Lane.
This decision to suspend further work on the plans follows extensive discussions between the partners as part of work to develop the scheme, along with design and engineering considerations.
The partners in the project are Lancashire County Council, Lancaster City Council and Homes England.
Overall the aim is still to develop plans for this part of south Lancaster, create sustainable communities and unlock long-term traffic issues, but the current plans will be re-evaluated.
The South Lancaster project aimed to provide residents with greater travel choices, including delivering investment in public transport infrastructure, alongside new roadbuilding which would help ease traffic congestion through the village of Galgate, and would have unlocked access to the proposed Bailrigg Garden Village and surrounding settlements
The project would also have included new education and health facilities, utilities and active travel and bus provision to support new housing and jobs.
Aidy Riggott, cabinet member for Economic Development and Growth at the county council, said: "We've been working hard to try and deliver these transport and community improvements, and unlock access to the proposed Garden Village, but we're not able to continue with the proposals in their current form.
"In particular, we're faced with rising costs due to inflation, which would have affected how we can deliver these improvements within the current plans.
"It's still our aim to develop plans for this part of south Lancaster, and unlock long-term traffic issues and help people to get around. We'll re-assess the proposals to make sure that they deliver against our aims and are affordable."
Councillor Phillip Black, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “I am pleased that the County Council and Homes England have taken the sensible decision to suspend and re-evaluate plans for South Lancaster in light of inflationary pressures and rising costs.
“However, as a Government Planning Inspector recently acknowledged, there is an overriding need for housing within the Lancaster district. All parties involved recognise that the South Lancaster area still has a part to play in meeting this housing need in the future, but now is the time to evolve our strategic vision of housing developments in our district.
“The decision to stop work on the current plans provides a genuine opportunity for alternative, place-based development proposals to emerge in tandem with the necessary infrastructure (transport, including sustainable transport, schools, healthcare and employment).
“That is our next big challenge, to deliver the right kind of housing, in the right places, that is affordable, with the right infrastructure, to create vibrant and integrated communities in a manner that also responds to our local climate change mitigation aspirations.
“We will work with our partners and our local communities to develop this new vision.”
Funding for the road scheme and a wider programme of supporting infrastructure included an award of £140 million from the government's Housing Infrastructure Fund. This will be returned to the Government.
Pauline Schaffer, director of Infrastructure Funding at Homes England said: " We have been working with Lancashire County and Lancaster City Councils for several years on this project and appreciate the challenges it has faced and the position that has been reached.
"We remain committed to supporting our partners in Lancashire and will continue working with them outside of the HIF programme with a focus on place-based development under our new strategic plan."
A recent consultation was held on updated proposals for the road. This was designed to keep the project on track to meet the necessary timelines, while detailed discussions took place between the partners.
There were more than 400 replies to the consultation. Issues raised included people concerned over the loss of wildlife and landscape, possible flooding, the impact on existing properties and construction-related issues. People were positive about some of the planned public transport improvements.
Another consideration is the recent announcement to replace the Royal Lancaster Infirmary with a new hospital on a new site, details of which are yet to be decided.
The county council is working with strategic partners, including Lancaster City Council, to support the NHS in its search for a suitable location.