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Roads to Riches? - or Ruin?

Being Positive No 2In Snippets February 09,  we made passing reference to two items concerning roads. One was the possibility of the so-called 'Blue Route' picking up from Junction 4 on the M55, and the other reported the planning application for the road across Lytham Moss was being re-examined. We thought there might be a connection between these (both in practice and in logic) so we wanted a closer look.

The road across the moss has come under closer scrutiny since the Queensway Environmental Defenders group began to raise concerns about it. Until then, conventional wisdom had assumed it would be a 'good thing' After all; it would make it easier for people to get to the motorway wouldn't it?

But as QED pointed out, the road across the moss will damage quite a bit of the wildlife. It will also become the main way *into* Lytham, St Anne's and Ansdell from the M55.

That means all the commercial traffic making deliveries to supermarkets and businesses in those towns will arrive at Cypress Point or Kilnhouse Lane and then have to find its way along residential roads that were not planned to take traffic on that scale.

We've said before that St Anne's was planned to be serviced from the seaward side - with wide roads like Clifton Drive provided to cope with the bigger vehicles.

We think having it arrive at the back of St Anne's will produce quite a few problems, not least for residents of Heyhouses, for whom the vibration of euro-juggernauts will be a threat to the stability of their homes.

So where did the idea for the road come from?   Why is it needed?   And if the road is built, will it be a good thing or a bad thing?

The road has its origins in the Fylde Local Plan.

Back in 1992 when the Local Plan was examined before being adopted, there were intentions for three new roads in the St Annes area.

The so-called Red Route from the M55 to Fleetwood, the Lytham St Annes By-Pass, and the Heyhouses to M55 Link Road. We'll look at each.

The Red Route
Historically, stretching back over 25 years or so, this was the preferred route for what was going to be the Fylde Coast Easterly By-Pass (see Red and Yellow and....). It was to take the weight of north / south traffic in Blackpool off roads like the Promenade, Whitegate Drive / Devonshire Road and so on.

It ran from the M55's Junction 4, skirting the back of Staining, cutting through Normoss just below High Cross, carried on over a flyover above the open space on Garstang Road between Blackpool and Poulton, skirted the gates of Carlton Crematorium and ran up to the roundabout at Armounderness Way.

In the end it didn't happen. The land required couldn't be assembled without huge cost increases over the original budget (there were also serious environmental and technical problems) so it was abandoned a few years ago.

Then the emphasis changed, and it morphed into a scheme to enable more economic growth to take place in Fleetwood. The preferred routes ran from the Kirkham junction on the M55, to Mains Lane at Singleton (in a variety of different ways, once again distinguished by colours on a plan), (See Road Relief for Some)

However, no clear agreement emerged as to which of these routes should be adopted.

Eventually the Blue Route was horse-traded to favour and, more recently still, to get over the Highways Agency's objection to creating a new junction that would be only a few hundred yards from Junction 4 at B&Q, we believe a plan has been hatched the make the 'Blue Route' begin *at* Junction 4 (as we showed in Snippets February 09). If we're right, this is a weird way to go about making transport routes more efficient, but it shows what horse-trading gets you.

You might wonder why all this blue and red stuff is relevant to the proposed Lytham Moss road, but read on, dear reader, read on.

The Lytham St Annes By-Pass
This road was to have run from the Queensway / Kilnhouse Lane junction in an easterly across North Houses Lane and Moss Hall Lane before skirting the North edge of the cemetery then crossing Ballam Road and Saltcoates Road before joining the A584 (Preston Road) near Dock Bridge.

The purpose of this road was to relieve the weight of traffic on the main roads through Lytham St Annes to Blackpool. It was to by-pass the town centres.

It had been held that further economic development in south Fylde would be compromised without this road because it would be impractical / impossible to widen the existing roads through the built up areas of Lytham and St Annes to dual carriageway standard. And dual carriageway was needed for quick traffic movement.

Part of the logic for this by-pass was also to enable traffic management or traffic-limiting measures in the town centres of Lytham and St Annes. These would give greater priority to pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport, by making the town centres less car-friendly.

The Heyhouses to M55 Link Road
Relatively, this was a more recent idea. It flowed 'logically' from (what would have been) the end of the Red Route at the M55 Junction, and ran to Cypress Point / Regent Avenue.

But since these roads were first mooted, their purpose and priority has changed significantly.

  • The Red Route has become the Blue Route, and instead of relieving congestion in Blackpool its purpose is now to promote economic development in Fleetwood.
  • The Heyhouses to M55 Link Road has assumed priority over the Lytham St Annes By Pass, the latter being effectively downgraded to a spur from the Link road across the moss to the Kilnhouse Lane junction.

The link road across the moss is also widely believed to have an unspoken agenda that would see another spur from it join with the Freckleton bypass around the back of Warton.

The aim here is believed to be the economic growth and diversification of South Fylde - especially Freckleton and Warton. The improved road would speed access to and from the motorway network for business, and supposedly create more employment. This would be especially important if any problem were to befall BAe at Warton for example.

It would also create a swathe of areas for residential development between the road and the existing town boundaries.

The vast number of houses being planned in association would,  of course, easily fund the building of the road(s).

What readers may also not realise is that the M55 Link Road across the moss (Which would be known as Lytham St Annes Way) isn't simply an improvement of the existing road. The present road is scheduled to stay as it is and become a bridleway.

No, the new road is a fast dual carriageway road running parallel to the existing moss road a few yards away from it. It will be one of those ubiquitous and anonymous shelter belt planted corridors that seem to be loved by road builders on new developments.

We've head environmentalists say that ecologically it would be a disaster for things like the Barn Owls that still hunt over the mossland.

Apparently, the Owls can't get out of the way of the flight-arresting headlights on trucks pushing along at 40 or 50 miles an hour in the dark. There will undoubtedly be roadkill losses for owls and for all sorts of animals and birds as they try to navigate across the "death highway" running through their hunting ground.

So the pros for the roads are

  • Bit quicker to get to the motorway
  • Open up south Fylde to develop and diversify commercial / industrial sites in the Freckleton / Warton area
  • Build load of new houses to cope with the inward migration employment opportunities that will be created in south Fylde, and to fund the building of the roads (since Government has apparently now withdrawn from treating roads as something to be paid for from normal taxation).

The cons for the road are

  • Loss of wildlife directly through roadkill.
  • Possible disruption of underground watercourses (the foundations on peat will have to be exceptionally deep and heavy)
  • HGVs and euro-juggernauts arriving at Kilnhouse Lane, Heyhouses Lane and Cypress Point trying to find their way to supermarkets and other delivery addresses in St Annes Lytham and Ansdell.
  • Further disturbance to wildlife, and permanent loss of habitat as the new houses are built in an arc round the back of St Annes, Lytham and Warton to generate the cash that developers will swap for whored planning permissions to build the houses.
  • Greatly increased risk of flooding for Lytham and Ballam especially, and to a lesser extent, the mossland part of St Annes. We have seen the prediction from the Environment Agency that on Queensway the flood mitigation proposed aims to "reduce the increased risk of flooding", not eliminate it.
  • Vibration, shaking and disturbance for residents along existing roads such as Heyhouses as heavy lorries not designed for such roads start to use them more and more.
  • Shopkeepers in Lytham, Ansdell and St Annes deprived of custom as traffic minimisation measures make town centres less attractive to cars, and the new roads make it quicker and easier to get to what will be the retail and leisure developments at Whitehills (And beyond them to the delights of Freeport and Fleetwood Market, the Tithebarn in Preston and all points from the motorway network). As one former senior officer with Blackpool told us, "before it was built, we thought the M55 would be great, because it brought people to Blackpool much more quickly. What we hadn't reckoned on is that it takes them away just as fast."
  • Additional houses putting more strain on all the existing public services (doctors, dentist, police, waste disposal and so on).
  • It will remove some of the best agricultural and growing moss land that Fylde has

So overall, we seem to have a bigger list of cons than we have pros for the roads.

The whole of this matter is down to the great God of Growth of course. It's about economic benefits and being materially more wealthy.

The underlying logic is that we can, (and should), have permanent material lifestyle improvement - forever. (Curiously, the vastly increased material wealth we have enjoyed since the last war for example doesn't seem to have made us happier as a society though).

In our view it's the same sort of logic that says you can borrow your way out of a recession by doing more of the same that thing got you into trouble in the first place and not be storing up even bigger trouble for yourself or your children in the future.

And as the Commissar says when he speaks about not using greenfield land for development: ... "This is fine in principle, but over the next two decades, where then do we develop new industrial sites and therefore jobs?"

He wants, and assumes we all want, growth.

In the words of his own leader:  "He simply doesn't get it"

We heard a rather nice counterbalancing quote from another politician speaking about the Queensway development that went something like "If we'd have wanted the lifestyle of Milton Keynes, we'd have moved to live in Milton Keynes" (repeated here with due deference to the sensitivities of our Milton Keynes readers :-)

What our Commissar has failed to recognise is that the UK population has decided - quite independently of each other - not to replace itself. Our birth rate has fallen dramatically, and as a nation, we are no longer at an increasing, or even self-sustaining level.

Nationally, and on average, we now have less than two children per couple.

In fact, this is quite a smart move on our part. The fundamental and underlying problem with the planet is that there are too many of us, and we are consuming too much of its resources - and in the medium term there are going to be even more of us. So anything that reduces the population without coercion is actually a good thing for future generations.

But it's bad for Governments. They like the power trip from spending the tax income we produce. And they like to give us the growth-fuelled consumption that takes our minds off more complicated issues.

But to pay for that consumptive lifestyle - the one that that Huxley - with incredible foresight and perception in 1936 - described as being based on "Passive obedience, material consumption and mindless promiscuity" - the price we have to pay, is growth.

So we need the sort of growth this New Labour Government, and indeed our so-called 'Conservative' Commissar, is keen to give us.

And for that to happen we need more - not less - workers in the future. And for that to happen we need more inward migration of workers because we are not breeding enough. And for that to happen we need homes to put them in and more industries to keep them employed. And of course, for that to happen we need more roads that will open up and speed transportation.

And of course to feed all of that, we need to have more of the 'consumption' that is causing so the damage to our planet in the first place.

You can just about see an argument if all these houses and jobs were needed for the children of local families.

But they're not.

They are from a Government edict that decrees Fylde's share of what Government wants built to increase the economic output of the country (and of the north west in particular) will be 5,500 houses plus whatever else they can get away with - such as their 'Growth Point' schemes.

And the commissar has no more sense than to agree with them.

So we suggest that, when you next hear silver-tongue talk of the need for growth, and of new roads, you might just want to stop and think, and see whether you want the environment and lifestyle that comes with them - and whether you want to leave the inevitable social and environmental legacy of such growth to whatever children and grandchildren you might have.

Dated:  5 May 2009


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