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Moss Road

Moss RoadThe papers have been full of excited announcements about the 'M55 Link Road' which, for those that don't know, is the new road that will link Cypress Point to the Cropper Road roundabout. (And thus supposedly, Lytham and St Annes to the Motorway)

The new M55 link road across the moss will be built a few yards away from, (but more or less parallel to), the present one, and will render the existing road redundant except for walkers, cyclists and, probably most importantly in that area, horse riders.

Since the existing 'Moss Road' was closed for safety reasons, commuters have been keen to get it re-opened, but LCC has been saying that it's pointless them spending money on expensive road rebuilding only to have it replaced by the new road that will come with the Queensway development.

But that development doesn't seem to be moving apace at present.

Sadly, Kensington's driving force, Malcolm Hawe, died earlier this year, and there doesn't seem to be the same sort of impetus driving it forward.

We also understand that the environmental situation might have changed.

Mark Evans suggested as much when he reported to one of Fylde's planning committees saying that revised requirements from English Nature required a fundamental reappraisal - at least that's what we thought we heard. He didn't go into too much detail.

We also hear that the Oyston family - who had agreed to sell some land that's needed for the project - don't seem to be rushing things from their end.

So for whatever reason, the moss road is out of action and drivers are inconvenienced - and until recently, there wasn't much sign of change.

That's despite all sorts of people like MPs and County Councillors who were working hard in the background to get the road opened up.

There may be others but certainly we know that at national level, Mark Menzies has been working hard for a resolution, and at Lancashire County level, Cllr Paul Hayhurst has been doing the same and has put in a lot of effort in to find a solution.

Cue the Government stepping in and getting lots of credit by announcing that the road will be funded from the 'Growth Fund' - and construction will start within 18 months.

The Growth Fund is a 3.2 billion Government fund that supports eligible projects and programmes that also "raise private sector investment to create economic growth and sustainable employment."

But in our mossland agricultural area, we suspect that not all the ducks are in line, and not all the chickens have been counted as far as making a start on the replacement moss road is concerned.

Readers will know we've never been particularly enamoured of this road.

We know that we're more or less in a minority of one on this matter, but we simply can't get enthusiastic.

For a start, St Annes was a designed town. It was conceived and laid out well before the advent of town and country planning by a group of businessmen. They determined that it would be laid out and serviced from an unbelievably wide road (by today's standard) - Clifton Drive, and it would be laid out in a grid pattern.

The shops would be close to the wide road for ease of servicing and customer access. The width of road and the strength of its construction was intended for heavy traffic.

The new road, on the other hand, will initially deposit European juggernauts at the Regent Avenue junction on Heyhouses Lane, from whence they will find their own routes into Lytham and St Annes Town Centres.

Later on, once the planned houses for Queensway are completed, there is to be a new lateral road running along the back edge of the new Queensway development from the new M55 Link road.

This lateral 'estate distributor' road terminates in what will become a huge new roundabout at the Kilnhouse Lane traffic lights, and it will double as a fast route into St Annes from the M55 Link road once it is built.

So when that happens, juggernauts will be wending their way from the Motorway along Kilnhouse Lane and various residential streets to get to St Annes town centre.

We simply can't get enthusiastic about an idea that services the town of St Annes from its back side.

We also recall that the layout of the road (at least in the planning application that was eventually approved) had a kink that made life much more dangerous for horse owners who would have to cross the road twice to use the old moss road (which was to become a bridleway for them.)

We also think that, given the quite spectacular mossland wildlife  - we can't get excited about say, night-flying owls or whatever being spread-eagled (if that's not to much of a mixing of metaphors) on the front of lorries doing 60 mph in the dark along the new road.

Finally, we also worried it would open up the whole of South Fylde to more commercial and residential development.

Warton knows all about that at present, and we could envisage the Freckleton By-pass being extended round the back of Warton to link up with the M55 Link road, readying the way for a long-heralded industrialisation and development of South Fylde.

Fast roads do that sort of thing.

Some people even believe that the timing of this announcement, and the timing of the announcement of the Preston Westerly By-pass road (which will put a fast route from just past the Lea Gate Hotel up to the M55 near its crossing of the Lancaster Canal) are all to do with the industrialisation of South Fylde to get the fracking lorries in and out quicker.

We're not sure about that, but we hope we have shown a few reasons why the M55 Link Road isn't so exciting - at least to our mind.

But set against those arguments is the convenience of being able to commute more quickly, and commuters who have read the headlines will be joyful.

But all is not what it seems.

The press release selling the story didn't make the picture wholly clear.

Firstly, the Government isn't paying for the road.

They're providing 15 million to the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, then *they* are going to 'lend' this money to Kensington so they can build the road straight away, rather than have it built piecemeal in the agreed salami-slice portions as the houses are completed.

Kensington will then repay the 'loan' to Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (who might well have to pay it back to the Government), in accordance with an agreed phasing of the house building on Queensway.

That said, we understand that the Government is putting 2 million of 'its own' (technically ours - like the 15 million, but we won't open that sore now) money into the scheme, and if it doesn't make a start before the end of next year that money might vanish into the ether.

We also understand Lancashire County Council is not putting any of its own (actually our money from another pocket) money in, when we thought it might have been.

We were a bit puzzled by all of this.

When the Queensway Inquiry was in progress, we heard Kensington's barrister say they estimated the road would cost about 20 million to build.

Given the time that has elapsed, that's probably gone up to 21 million or more by now.

And try as we may, we can't get 2+15 to add up to 21 (or even 20).

So it might be that despite the announcement, there is some chicken counting going on before the eggs have hatched.

We're not at all clear there is enough money in the pot to build the road even after the Government's (or our) 17 million is chucked in.

And what with changes in people running the show, and the environmental worries, there must be a risk that the euphoria is a bit premature.

We're also picking up stories that if the money isn't enough, and the road doesn't get started, the Government's 2 million might be used as a fall-back measure by the County Council to build just one section of the new road, or repair the existing one.

That would, in effect, repair or replace the end section which has been causing the problems, and allow the remaining section of the 'old' moss road to be opened for use again until the funding for the whole road can be found.

We think this is probably because LCC's interest in this matter is the road, not the houses.

Whether Kensington are in a position to agree a timetable with LCC for a partial rebuild is another unclear question.

So whilst a lot of people will be hoping the whole of the new road starts next year, we're less sure that it will.

As an aside, we're also hearing stories about more road closures in the Division Lane area, and we suspect there will be upset over some of them.

We believe an announcement on this matter is due soon.

Dated:     18 July 2014


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