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Red and Yellow and......

RoadAbout 20 yeas ago, the "Fylde Coast Easterly By-Pass" was mooted. The plan was to relieve pressure on the North/South roads through Blackpool, by taking traffic off the Promenade, Whitegate Drive, Devonshire Road and other congested routes. 

The 'Red Route' emerged as favourite, but it had a lot of critics. Environmental damage at Marton Mere, and a huge flyover at the junction with Garstang Road didn't help matters. In the end, the cost went up and up, and it was abandoned.

Now another road is on the cards, and locals are being asked which route the it should follow. 

The 'Red Route' is shown as a possibility, along with Blue, Yellow, Pink and Purple alternatives. The new roads are all in the rural part of Fylde.

Because the Red Route is shown on the plans again, people are inclined to think the logic behind the road is the same as last time. 

But it's not. 

Many also subconsciously think that the new road is to relieve the traffic problems at Catlows, the petrol station at the five roads junction on the Garstang Blackpool road where traffic regularly backs up beyond the Windy Harbour Junction. 

But it's not. 

In fact, the proposed new road could make things worse in the longer term, because it is being provided to increase the traffic.

So what's behind the road, and what are the implications of the various alternatives? counterbalance went along to a couple of the exhibitions to find out a few things for our readers.

First, and most importantly, the main purpose is to solve some of Fleetwood's problems. 

Quite how Fleetwood has suddenly developed such clout remains a mystery for the time being, but it surely has. It seems that some industries in Fleetwood have been moving out because of poor transport links, and there is difficulty in attracting new industry to locate there - supposedly for the same reason. So a multi-million pound new road is planned to connect Fleetwood (and to a lesser extent, Thornton), with the M55, by providing something like a fast dual carriageway road between the two.

So, whilst in the short term, any of the new road variations will, as a by-product, provide some relief of present traffic levels from Catlows, if you recognise the real aim as being to increase the flow of traffic to Fleetwood, it's not going to be a case of  "things can only get better"  in the longer term.  Quite the opposite.

We will briefly examine each of the options, before looking at some of the side effects that you might not have thought about - some of which were buried in the quite small print, or not mentioned at all in the paperwork.

Red Route
We can dispose of the Red Route quite quickly. In terms of efficiency it is clearly the best and most effective route to the motorway available to the greater number of people. If you can accept that some traffic won't come as far south as the end of the M55 to join it, this route is the obvious choice. The downside is the damage to the environment and to development planning issues (of which more later). Environmental issues have a much higher profile today, and this, coupled with the high cost, means 'Red is dead'. It won't happen.

Blue Route
Geographically, the next road is the Blue route. This has a complicated junction just a hop and a skip along the M55 from junction 4. 

This doesn't meet the criteria for the preferred distance between junctions. 

It follows the railway up to Singleton's mile straight, then turns cross country to a new roundabout between Poulton and Catlows. 

It is the second cheapest option, the least damaging to the environment (or at least to recognised environmentally important sites), and is mostly away from urban property, so it has a lot going for it. 

One of our readers suggested the recent strengthening of the railway embankment is because the decision to use this route has already been made. That didn't seem to be the view of the experts, but for the other factors alone, this road must remain an outside possibility.

Yellow Route
Next comes the Yellow route, running more or less diagonally to the North West from the Kirkham junction on the M55, passing just south of Singleton to the same junction on Garstang Road East as the Blue route. 

This also avoids most of the urban bits, although it is quite close to Singleton. It's the cheapest option (big plus). It is the most direct. It is only marginally slower in travel time to the motorway than the Red route. It is the second least environmentally damaging option (on the official measure of damage). It was also the preferred choice of a professional study. If one of these roads is built at all, we think it will be the Yellow route. 

Note that we are not saying we think it should be this route, only that it is the most likely to be chosen.

Purple Route
Next is the Purple route, which shares the Pink route from the Kirkham junction to what used to be known as Hellfire Corner near Thistleton, from where it turns north west and crosses the countryside just north of Singleton, more or less through the new properties in Singleton Hall who are going to be most upset if this route is chosen. It also goes to one of the roundabouts on Garstang Road. 

It is middling expensive, and quite environmentally damaging. The small maps given out appear to show the first section (M55 to Thistleton) running on the line on the existing road, but it doesn't. 

Both this and the Pink route are about 100 yards on the Blackpool side of the existing road, and more or less parallel to it. In effect it becomes a bypass for Esprick and the ribbon development along the existing road. We think it doesn't have much of a chance.

Pink Route
The Pink route goes straight on at Hellfire Corner and joins the Garstang Road at the Windy Harbour junction, turning left there and weaving around a bit to the side of the existing road and on to one of the roundabouts mentioned earlier. 

One of the strange features of this road is that appears to be parallel to each of the roads it shadows. We were assured this was because it is a wider road than the existing one, and can't fit easily between the properties on either side of the existing road, so it has to go round the back of them. 

Apart from the Red route, this is the most expensive option, and it is potentially quite damaging in broader planning terms. It is most unlikely to be chosen.

Road routes - click to enlarge

The last options are two alternative routes from the roundabouts on Garstang Road East to the lower reaches of Mains Lane. 

South Option
One of these routes (the South option) is the most direct and unsurprisingly runs south of Mains Lane. The chief downside is that it crosses an area known to flood. 

North Option
The North option crosses Mains Lane, then crosses the driveway to Mains Hall, and the slip road to Shard Bridge before meeting Mains Lane again just near the Garage close to the River Wyre hotel. 

These two route options are quite interesting.

If any road except the Red one is built, one of these routes will be used. If the North one is selected, a long stretch of Mains Lane will effectively become a residential cul-de-sac, because Over Wyre traffic will turn left or right halfway along the existing slip road, and main road traffic will by-pass much of Mains Lane on the new road. 

However if the South route is chosen, the Over Wyre traffic will probably still use Mains Lane as it does now.

Turning to the side effects of the proposals, there are two sorts, the planned and the unintended.

Planned Side Effects
The planned side effects are to do with 'balancing' the transport needs of the area affected by the new road. 

Quite why or how these are arrived at wasn't clear, but they include: refurbishment of the tramway between Fleetwood and Blackpool, and its possible extension to St Annes. 

There is also a plan to put traffic calming on Blackpool Promenade - (presumably to discourage lorries from using it, or to persuade them to use the new road)

Also, something called 'Quality Bus Routes' are to be introduced. Sadly, these aren't what you might think, they are not high quality bus services, or even high quality buses. No, they are routes that are only for buses to use, again making it more difficult for traffic that is not on the new road.

There are also improvements for cyclists and pedestrians, but given the direction so far, we think they are more likely to dis-benefit the traffic rather than to benefit cyclists or pedestrians.

Unintended Side Effects
The unintended side effects are even more interesting. They are mostly about the impact of the road plans on the built development.

Firstly, when a new road like this is built, it often becomes what planners call the 'boundary of a settlement.'

 Within parishes and boroughs, planners tend to use existing physical features to define the limits of housing and other development in towns and villages. 

When a new road gets built around the 'outside' of a settlement, it often extends (although maybe not in the short term) the boundary of the developable area of the settlement. So the road becomes the new boundary, and homes are infilled between the old and new settlement boundaries. 

This is especially relevant if the Red route were to be chosen, because in the longer term, it would probably destroy the green belt and spaces between Poulton & Blackpool as both eventually extended both their boundaries to the road that passed between them, creating a (physically, if not psychologically) unified  "Greater Blackpool" or something like it.

The other roads might have a similar development impact on other habitation, especially in the Mains Lane and Esprick areas, depending on which roads are built.

Another unexpected change that often comes with a new major road is that 'earlier' roads are 'downgraded.' 

Amongst other things, this can, for example, allow entrances and exits for new development where they would not have been allowed onto the road before its importance was reduced. 

So if the Pink or Purple routes were chosen, it is likely that development off the existing A 585 through Esprick would be more readily achievable. There is also potential for this sort of thing in the Mains Lane area, especially if the North option is chosen in that area.

Another aspect is that some existing roads will be come culs-de-sac. This is especially likely to affect Mains Lane if the North option is selected, because it will probably close off one end of Mains Lane where the new road intersects it. The same thing happens on part of the existing Garstang Road if the Pink Route is selected.

One of the bigger impacts will be on property prices. Whilst individual properties might be adversely affected by noise, in general, building new main roads like this,  tends to increase property prices near to junctions with existing residential areas, by making the area more readily available to commuters. This increases property values for existing householders.

Nowhere will this impact be more evident than in the attractive, conservation area village of Singleton. The Yellow, Purple and Pink routes will all put the village within two or three minutes of a fast new road to the motorway, and mean Singleton probably becomes within the Manchester commuter belt.

This is bad news for the village. Apart from the noise of the new road, it will increase demand for property, and thus increase property prices which are already well beyond the means of local young people who want to stay in the village. 

This, in turn, will make the area attractive for developers to build more homes, so there will be pressure for additional development in the village. Thus the village will grow and change its character - many would say for the worse.

You can look at the maps and see which other places will become within a few minutes of a new road junction for yourself.

Finally, one of the least attractive aspects is that existing homes near to new junctions on the new high speed roads will need to get burglar alarms and better security fitted. It is a well known fact that new high speed roads bring Liverpool scallys and others looking for rich pickings and a quick getaway as soon as a new road opens to traffic.

Dated: 23 October 2006

Update
A reader has suggested we might have under-reported the effects of the 'North Option' on the local environment. They believe this option would devastate the Wyreside Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the area protected under the Ramsar Convention.  Clearly, this option would not result in an enviornmental improvement, but the maps we have been able to find show the North Option does not enter any of the SSSI designated areras.

Dated: 26 October 2006

Update 2
News just in suggests the County Council are going to remove the 'Protected Status' for the Red Route, allowing development within the area that was previously earmarked for it. This is probably because they know the Red Route is really not going to happen.

Dated: 28 February 2007


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