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M55 Link Road:  Progress?

M55 Link Road  Progress?In this article, we take a look at what might have been happening, and where we might be up to, with the long-promised road across Lytham Moss.

This is the road officially known as the 'M55 Heyhouses Link' that is planned to link the M55 (via the roundabouts at Whitehills and Cropper Manor) with the traffic light junction near the end of Regent Avenue* where Heyhouses Lane joins Blackpool Road/North Houses Lane (where Blackpool Road joins the new road called 'Lytham St Annes Way').* Factual correction: See update at end

There are precious few facts emerging about this road, but we get the impression there is a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes, and only a limited amount of that information is being deposited in the public domain.

That said, we do get to hear snippets from some of our readers and we occasionally pick up a comment here and there from councillors, or the odd publication, so we're going to try and pull together a story that we emphasise is not fact, (unless we say or quote otherwise), but it is a story of what we think might have happened.

Readers will remember that we're less enamoured of the value of this road than lots of people in the area.

We have something of a down on it for four reasons really.

Firstly, the price we were supposed to pay for it (an extra 1,100 or so houses), is simply not worth it in our view.

Secondly in terms of ecology, we think a fast road will have a really bad effect on the mossland wildlife (think owls - who should be hunting across mossland farmland at night - being frozen in the headlights of a juggernaut before they prematurely meet their maker).

Thirdly, (as we have said before) it will completely reverse the intended and original design of St Annes (which was laid out to be serviced from the wide and spacious four-lane capacity 'Clifton Drive' at the seaward side of the town).

It may be that the proposed road will make journeys to the motorway easier for local people (although with its stated aim of INCREASING commercial and domestic traffic for the borough, that's not a given benefit), but it will also bring all the traffic from the motorway and deposit it into the back of Lytham St Annes - putting HGVs on roads that were not designed for them, as they leave the Cypress Point junction (or as they travel via another new road from the M55 Link Road to Kilnhouse Lane) to find a way to filter through domestic roads to local businesses, or for town centre deliveries.

But our fourth - and main - concern is that we think this proposed road is a key length of what will become an arc of roads that will run from the M55 through the back of Lytham St Annes, and eventually join up with a Warton by-pass and the Freckleton by-pass.

If that happens, there will be irresistible pressure (as there always is when a new road is built) to infill the area between the existing settlement boundaries and the new by-pass.

So the new road will become the de-facto new limit on development, and we simply cannot go on following this God of Illusory Growth - who would have more and more of the green farmland and countryside built over in order to produce the illusion of progress and wealth - which, in reality, (and just like the sub prime mortgage disaster), is theoretical money based on fundamentally unsustainable credit and borrowing. It is not real economic growth. It is the illusion of economic growth.

So we're not great fans of the road, and readers might want to bear that in mind as they read on.....


We begin with some Background, before looking at the decision of the First Queensway Appeal, then the second Queensway Inquiry Report and Decisions (which included the case for the Kensington PT Partnership and the Delivery of the Link Road). We then look at some of the Changes Made after the appeal before looking at the progress on the M55 Link Road Itself, and we note how the New Road Became More Real.

That leads us to consider how the Government's 'Growth Deal' provided the first funding, how the Northern Powerhouse and GVA for this region are inextricably linked, before moving to look at the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership - who they are and how they have been set up to deliver the Government's Growth Deal.

We then look at what the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership has published about its Priorities - picking out their introduction to the Road (which they appear to see as part of plan to regenerate Blackpool). And in a passing digression, we mention one of their training priorities on the Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone (known by some as the proposed 'Fracking College') before looking at the LEP's Strategic Economic Plan, and how the road fits in to that.

That concludes a review of the factual documentation we assembled, and we move on to look at the gossip and assumptions about what might have Taken Place in Practice before reporting the meeting where FBC Considered Funding the Road by putting 1m into the pot to build it, before summing up where we think we are now, and giving our own Conclusions.


We reported the details of the Queensway housing application up to the decision to approve it, and (using the counterbalance search box above) a search for 'Queensway' will deliver links to all the documents if readers want more detail on this background.


In 2010, when St Eric Pickles took the decision that REFUSED permission for the Queensway development, he said under the heading 'Highways' at paragraph 17  ".....The Secretary of State is also aware (IR344) that there is no extant planning permission for the M55 link road, but that, through the UU (IR27) [Unilateral Undertaking] , the scheme provides sufficient funding for its completion."

And at paragraph 18. he said "The Secretary of State has also taken account of the fact that, in considering the merits of the appeal proposals, the Inspector has come to the conclusion (IR352) that the ability of the appeal scheme to make a contribution sufficient to pay for the construction of the M55 link and supply all the necessary additional land is a weighty consideration in its favour. However, the Secretary of State disagrees with this conclusion for two reasons. Firstly, as the road scheme neither has the benefit of an extant planning permission nor forms a part of the appeal application, there can be no certainty that planning permission will be forthcoming to enable it to be built. Secondly, having regard to the three statutory tests set out in Regulation 122 of the CIL Regulations 2010, while the Secretary of State agrees that it would offer one means of making the appeal scheme acceptable in planning terms, he does not consider that it is either directly related to the development (given that the principle of such a road predates the appeal scheme) or that the proposed functions of the road are fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the development. He has therefore given no weight to the road scheme in coming to a decision on this appeal."

The developer made a challenge to St Eric's decision. That challenge succeeded, and the decision to refuse permission had to be re-considered at a second Inquiry.


Having registered what happened at the first Inquiry, an application for planning permission for the M55 Link Road took place in tandem with this second appeal.

Lancashire County Council (who were strong supporters of the proposed new road) worked with Kensington to create a design for the M55 Link Road that would be acceptable financially. (But a design which we thought was, in some aspects, sub-prime in terms of road safety).

We also believed - despite what LCC argued at the inquiry - that they had not properly thought through the problems that trying to hold the drainage water that would come from the road and the new housing area if, as United Utilities said they would require, they have to artificially slow the rate of drainage water leaving the site so it only enters the main drainage system at Greenfield run-off rates. (Soil can absorb water - but concrete, roofs and tarmac does not).

Sure enough, the decisions on both the second Queensway appeal and the application for the M55 Heyhouses Link Road were take out of the hands of the local Councils and the Planning Inspectorate, and were, in fact taken by the Secretary of State.

This time, the Inspector dismissed concerns such as we had made, and he recommended that the Queensway appeal be allowed  and that planning permission should be granted for both the Queensway appeal and the application for the M55 Heyhouses Link Road, subject to certain conditions.


The Secretary of State agreed with the Inspector's conclusions and recommendations.

In the detail of his decision he said:

"17. For the reasons given at IR433-435, [that's the Inspector's Report paragraphs 433 to 435] the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that a high quality bus service would be provided for at least 10 years with only modest impact on existing users and, assuming the completion of the Link Road, the scheme would not have an adverse impact on the safety or convenience of users of the existing highway network with some benefits in terms of reduced traffic flows and improved environmental conditions on some existing roads."

"18. For the reasons given at IR441-447, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the Queensway scheme provides - through the commitment to funding in the Unilateral Undertaking (UU) - the only realistic means by which an important beneficial road scheme could realistically come to fruition in a timely manner. In particular, the Secretary of State has taken account of the fact that the provision of the Link Road has an assessed benefit-to-cost ratio of 4.6, representing high value for money (IR441); that all the land required for its construction is in the ownership of the appellants and LCC (IR443); and that the proposal has policy backing, the support of FBC, significant local support and the benefit of a previous planning permission (IR444)."

"20. In concluding on that matter, the Secretary of State has had regard to the Inspector's overall conclusions and assessment of the planning balance at IR472-486. In particular, he agrees with the Inspector (IR486) that the ability of the Queensway appeal scheme to fund the provision of the Link Road (whose provision would itself result in considerable planning benefits) and to make a positive contribution to housing provision are very significant and weighty considerations in favour of both schemes. He therefore agrees with the Inspector that they clearly outweigh the totality of harm of inappropriate Green Belt development together with the other harm identified, and he is satisfied that very special circumstances exist to justify the use of Green Belt land for the construction of the road schemes."

"Overall Conclusions

28. The Secretary of State concludes that, overall, both the Queensway appeal and the Link Road scheme are in accordance with national policy including the NPPF, and that the Link Road is in accordance with the Development Plan. He acknowledges that the Queensway appeal site is not allocated for housing in the 2005 LP [Local Plan], but balances this against the fact that the proposed scheme would make an appropriate contribution towards the substantial housing needs of the area, including the need for affordable housing, and he considers this to be an important material consideration to which he gives considerable weight. He also considers that, as the Link Road scheme will not only provide access to the appeal site but also provide wider planning benefits, there are very special circumstances to justify the harm which it will cause to the openness of the Green Belt."

Amongst the Conditions the Secretary of State imposed on grant of permission for the road were the following:

"1. The development shall commence not later than five years from the date of this permission". (The date of the letter granting permission was 21 June 2012)

"18. No other development hereby permitted, or any site preparation, shall commence until the new Queensway Roundabout junction (including all pedestrian, cycling and equestrian provision), all other pedestrian, cycling and equestrian provision on the B5261, the western section of the east-west access road (TR5) up to and including the second (development) access and the bridleway to the south of the access road, together with all supporting infrastructure required to link into existing routes at either end, have been completed in accordance with the approved scheme.

19. No more than 375 dwellings shall be occupied on the site until improvement schemes/works at the signalised junctions of St Annes Road East/St David's Road North and St Annes Road East/Church Road and the priority junction of St Annes Road East/Heyhouses Lane have been completed and made operational in accordance with the approved schemes.

20. No more than 375 dwellings shall be occupied on the site until the east-west T5 road including bridleway and the section of the M55 Link Road from, and including, the Moss Sluice Roundabout to the modified Cropper Road/Whitehill Road/Lytham St Annes Way Roundabout are completed and open to traffic in accordance with details that have been approved in writing by the local planning authority."

The Secretary of State's decisions above had been informed by the report of a Planning Inspector who conducted the second inquiry.


That Planning Inspector's report had noted

"Link Road
27. Planning permission has been previously granted by LCC for the central section of the Link Road in 2002, an application that was not called-in for determination by the SoS. The provision of this section of road was dependent upon developer funding, which did not materialise. The planning permission accordingly lapsed."

"33. Through the mechanism of the UU [Unilateral undertaking] the development would fund the completion of the Link Road. It would also see the construction of a new roundabout at the junction of Queensway and Kilnhouse Lane and the provision of a road, referred to as T5, from Queensway to the Link Road, which would provide access to the development and act as a by-pass for Heyhouses Lane. This would provide the only vehicular access to the development but pedestrian, cycleway and bridleway links would be provided both into the builtup area of St Annes to the south and the countryside to the north and east. These links would include enhanced connection for non-vehicular movements to Wild Lane which, on completion of the Link Road proposal, would be retained for pedestrian, cycle, equestrian and farm access."

"35. The proposal relates to the provision of the remaining middle section of the M55 to Heyhouses Link Road. The road would be a single carriageway of some 2.5km in length built on a shallow embankment of between one and two metres in height. It would be mainly constructed in parallel with the existing North Houses Lane/Wild Lane"

"36. Towards its southern end a new roundabout would be provided to link to the proposed T5 which would serve the Queensway proposal. From the roundabout the Link Road would cross Moss Sluice on an open span bridge and cross over the existing North Houses Lane/Wild Lane to run parallel to its eastern side up to the roundabout at the Cropper Road/Whitehill Road/Lytham St Annes Way roundabout junction to the north. South of the T5 junction roundabout the Link Road would be lit but the longest section between this and the Cropper Road/Whitehill Road/Lytham St Annes Way roundabout would be un-illuminated, apart from the roundabouts themselves.

(He went on to also describe how North Houses Lane/Wild Lane would be retained for use as a dedicated cycleway/bridleway apart from the southern section which would be incorporated into the improved highway).

"43. The development could not be built-out in its entirety (effectively not beyond the occupation of 375 dwellings) without the completion of the Link Road....."

The Planning Inspector's report then went on to look at the cases that had been made to him during the Inquiry

"THE CASE FOR KPT (Queensway Appellant)


47. The position regarding the Queensway proposal can be summarised shortly by means of an introduction to the Appellant's case.

a) It is agreed that the development, proposed to start in 2013, would produce some 375 units by the end of 2016.

b) The site would contribute significantly to addressing the chronic shortfall in necessary housing land both in respect of the five-year period and the six - ten year period as required by PPS3, RSS and by on-going guidance from the SoS. The contribution would be significant with regard to both general and affordable housing.

c) The Queensway development would completely fund the Link Road. In securing its completion it would secure a key objective of adopted LP and LTP policy."


f) The completion of the Link Road is a condition precedent to the Queensway development proceeding beyond 375 units. The Link Road separately would be of significant benefit to the safe and free flow of traffic on the local highway network.


89. The SoS's conclusion at the previous 2009 Inquiry - that there is no certainty that the Link Road would come forward - cannot now be argued in any way. There is a detailed scheme and there is funding provided for it through the Queensway development. Very significant weight should therefore be attached to the fact that the Queensway proposal would deliver a key objective of the LP....."


"110. The two applications are inextricably intertwined. Completion of the Link Road would be funded by KPT alone and the Link Road has to be provided to facilitate development on Queensway beyond 375 dwellings."

Under the heading "The Delivery of the Link Road" his report said:

123. The Queensway development would fund the design and implementation of the remaining stretch of the Link Road at a cost of 16m. It would connect the southern and northern sections which have already been funded through development and would complete the road.

124. The Link Road is a very costly project that will only be delivered by private funding. LCC confirms "there has never been any intention to provide the Link Road from the public purse".

125. It has already been demonstrated that there is development plan policy support for delivery of the road by private funding. It is clear that the Council continues to see the road as beneficial and necessary.

126. The Link Road would be delivered in a phased manner pursuant to the provisions of the UU. There is every reasonable expectation that the road would be provided. It conforms to policy......"


"127. If permission is granted for the Link Road then it would clearly be built if permission is granted for Queensway. All the necessary land to facilitate the road is in the ownership or control of either the Appellant or local highway authority. There would be no need for compulsory purchase of other land.

128. Under the UU, by the time that KPT had built 300 units, it would have invested more than 10m in the road infrastructure, (comprising 2m for the Queensway roundabout and the initial length of T5, and 8m in respect of phase 1 and 2 payments for the Link Road). This would rise to 14m by the time the 376th unit is occupied and 16m before 425 units are exceeded. KPT has accepted commitments that ensure the road would be delivered."


316. The ownership of the land by LCC and KPT needed for the Link Road, in conjunction with the UU, will provide certainty that it would be constructed. This certainty has singularly been lacking since the scheme was conceived in the 1990s. Moreover, it is common ground between the three main parties that KPT is able to fund the construction of the road in a way that is consistent with the CIL Regulations. Set against these two foundations of delivery, no one has been able to point to any other source of funding that would guarantee monies sufficient to pay for the Link Road."

In weighing the importance of these aspects, the second Inspector concluded (inter alia):

"444. The Queensway scheme would fund the design and implementation of the missing central section of the Link Road at a cost of some 16 million. The UU would ensure that KPT would have invested more than 10 million in the road infrastructure by the time 300 dwellings had been built, with the remaining monies paid in phases with the build-out of successive volumes of housing. If permission was to be granted for both proposals then, with funding secured through the UU, there would be considerable certainty of the Link Road being delivered....."


482. ...... The Queensway scheme would provide the funding for the Link Road to be completed in its entirety through the medium of the proffered UU, in respect of which there is agreement that this obligation is CIL-compliant. ......"


"486. ......These latter matters, in particular the ability of the Queensway proposal to fund the provision of the Link Road (whose implementation would itself result in considerable planning benefits) and to make a positive contribution to housing provision, are very significant and weighty considerations in favour of both schemes. I consider they are sufficient to clearly outweigh the totality of harm of inappropriate Green Belt development, together with the other harm identified. There would therefore be no conflict by either scheme with LP Policy SP3. Very special circumstances exist and, subject to the suggested conditions and the planning obligations, the planning balance is firmly in favour of the proposals such that the two schemes should be granted planning permission."

And they were.

And that took us to June 2012


In the way of these things, the above report and decision sounds as though the promises that were given, the agreements that were reached, and the conditions that were imposed, were cast in tablets of stone.

But they were (and are), not.

Since the permissions were granted there will have been discussions between FBC, LCC and Kensington about the details of the applications that were set out on the 'illustrative' plans and undertakings for the applications and the appeals.

Over the many months (and in this case, several years) that these discussions have taken place, it is not uncommon for things to change - sometimes beyond all recognition from those envisaged when the grant of planning permission was made.

Changes may be requested by the developer, or by the local authority, or by the highway authority or one of the services providers (e.g. water, sewers, electricity, gas and so on).

And such requests may be agreed either by reference to elected councillors (when officers seek their approval for changes to be made and a revision of the earlier decision is agreed), or sometimes just by the officers themselves, (using powers that elected councillors have delegated to them for such purposes).

These changes can encompass more or less anything from a different layout for the development, to different phasing, different funding arrangements, and so on.

It's down to the Council's committees or the officers to agree these changes or not.

To be honest, we saw so many changes being discussed on the schemes for Queensway and the Link-road, it was almost impossible to keep track of them all. And we didn't.

So it would not be a complete surprise to us if the final scheme and costing was nothing like the description we have quoted above from the Minister and Inspector's reports.

We would also not be out of sympathy with our readers if they found themselves wondering why on earth so much effort, time, and cost had been invested in the process to achieve the planning permission - if it was then capable of being significantly changed afterwards.

Amongst all the changes that have been made, probably the most notable thing to have happened to date (i.e. the middle of 2016) is the plain fact that almost nothing has happened on the ground.

Apart from a bit of weedkilling, some conservation / ditch maintenance on the land, and a signboard on the roadside, there is zilch to see on the ground.

So the Inquiry agreement that the development would start in 2013, and would produce some 375 [housing] units by the end of 2016 and (if we understood the Inspector's report, and the Secretary of State's decision correctly), that would have meant that at least part, if not all, of the new M55 Link road would have been completed by the end of this year (2016).

We can't see that happening.

Nor can we see any of the houses (the ones that should already be contributing to Fylde's five-year supply of housing) land rising from the land either.

Even worse. From what we can see, the planning permission for the M55 Link Road expires in less than 12 months from now, so either there is going to be some very fast road-building going on, or (and this is probably more likely if the County Council are willing) an extension of the planning permission period will be granted, or a new application for the road will have to be made.


As well as our previous reports on Queensway's planned housing schemes, together with their associated public inquiries and judicial reviews, we have covered aspects of the road a few times before - notably in 'Roads to Riches? - or Ruin?' (2009), 'Snippets - February 2010', 'Road Block' (2011), and most recently 'Moss Road' (2014).

And in January 2014, the Gazette had published a story saying that the existing moss road formally known as Wild Lane - (which had already been closed since August 2013) - 'could be shut forever' because 'Transport chiefs [at LCC] said they won't pay the 350,000 to fix Wild Lane'

Councillors and our MP were calling for action, and LCC announced that '..... 1.2m has been set aside to repair Fylde's crumbling roads - but nothing for Wild Lane'

The report said they didn't want to spend taxpayer's money on repairing Wild Lane when a new road (the M55 Heyhouses Link) was due to be built alongside it, funded by the housing that would be built on Queensway.

At that time LCC were even hoping to partially bring forward the construction of the new road.


Then on 11 July 2014, under the heading 'Work to start on Moss Road M55 link' the LSA Express published a picture with the happy smiling faces of Fylde's (then) Council Leader David Eaves, the (then) Secretary of State for Transport Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, and our own MP Mark Menzies in a report that included:

'Work on a new Moss Road linking Lytham and St Annes to the M55 will be started in the next 18 months, the Government has confirmed"

'...the Government announced a 230m Growth Deal package for projects across the Fylde coast which will see Fylde get two new links to the M55.'

Our own MP had asked a question in Parliament which was also reported in the Express. It said:

He asked in Parliament: "This afternoon, I was with the Secretary of State for Transport in Fylde, where we announced the Lytham St Annes to M55 link road. Will the Minister assure the people of Fylde, who are very excited about this announcement, that this shovel-ready project will indeed get under way in 2015/16, as planned?"

Greg Clark Minister of State for the Cabinet Office confirmed to him: "It will, indeed."'

As we now know, that didn't actually come to pass inside the expected timeframe.

Mr Menzies - speaking of the benefits that the road would bring by creating employment opportunities and boosting tourism - was quoted as saying:

 "That is why I am delighted with today's announcement that the project will finally go ahead and Fylde residents will have the road they deserve, which will help open up the Fylde coast and the rest of the country beyond."

The Express report also said:

 'The project, which will cost around 15m in total, was set out as part of a raft of new schemes to be carried out by the Government, working alongside Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.' (LEP).

That 'raft of new schemes' turned out to be something known as the 'Growth Deal'.

So what's that all about?


According to a Government press release "The Lancashire Growth Deal aims to realise the growth potential of the whole of Lancashire. ..... Improving transport connectivity to release economic activity and housing potential - particularly in Preston, East Lancashire, and Blackpool and the Fylde coast - is a key component of this growth deal."

They continued: "The Growth Deal, subject to a satisfactory conclusion of the funding agreement, will bring together local, national and private funding as well as new freedoms and flexibilities to focus on 4 key priority areas...

  • Releasing Growth Potential - by strengthening transport connectivity to create jobs and enable housing development;

  • Supporting the renewal and growth of Blackpool;

  • Growing the local skills and business base; and

  • Innovation and manufacturing excellence."

"The Lancashire LEP [Local Enterprise Partnership] has secured 233.9m from the Government's Local Growth Fund to support economic growth in the area - with 36.4m of new funding confirmed for 2015/16 and 48.6m for 2016/17 to 2021."

"This includes: as part of the Government's ongoing commitment to the Lancashire LEP, a provisional award of a further 48.9m of funding for projects starting in 2016 and beyond; and 100m of funding which the Government has previously committed as part of Local Growth Deal funding to the area."

It was believed that the money would ".....bring forward at least 140m of additional investment from local partners and the private sector."

And when all combined together "..... this will create a total new investment package of 373.9m for the Lancashire area. By 2021, this Deal will create at least 4,000 jobs and allow 3,000 homes to be built."

The sub-text of what the Government was saying about its apparent benevolence here was really about promoting substantial new housing development to fund much of the infrastructure improvements that were needed, and to 'release the growth potential of Lancashire' - and by that they mean more people working here (so it increases Lancashire's economic contribution to the UK economy).


That, of course, is also part of the aim of the much vaunted 'Northern Powehouse'

The Government measures regional economic productivity in something called the GVA (Gross Value Added) to the national economy by a region.

It is usually expressed as the contribution made per head of population.

In London last year, the GVA per head was about 72,000.

In Manchester it's about 21,000.

The overall Lancashire GVA per head is about 17,000, but in Blackpool it's only about 14,000

What this says, is that a Londoner's contribution to the UK economy is almost five times as much as someone who lives in Blackpool.

That's why that nice Mr Osborne said we needed a 'Northern Powerhouse'

He wanted more folk in the north pulling (what he saw as) their weight. More effort from people in the north to power the treadmill of UK growth.

And - as for the plan of encouraging UK growth by having thousands of new homes built - well, try selling that idea to the folk in Warton at present. You'd probably be lynched - because they would tell you it feels like most if them are going to be built in Warton.


So if that's the Growth Deal, who are the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and where does the road fit in?

Well, after John Prescott's plan for Regional Government was abandoned in 2004, and its sperm donor cum parent, (the Government Office for the North West) had been dis-inseminated by the Rt Hon St Eric Pickles (along with the Regional Spatial Strategies they had also spawned) in 2010/11,   the North West Development Agency (NWDA) - (which, like GONW,  had also been funded by central Government, and had been accountable to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) was also abolished on 31 March 2012.

When it abolished the NWDA, the Government took direct control of its former role in holding the purse strings for regional development funding.

Government itself took charge of what the NWDA used to do with

  •  Access to finance
  • - Inward investment (grants and loans etc)
  • - business support (money for businesses and business related stuff)

So the only things left to deal with from the rump of the NWDA were:


  •  Planning
  • Transport
  • Skills, and
  • Startup (ie new) companies

And the Government wanted to create a series of 'Local Enterprise Partnerships' up and down the country to take on these roles.

We very much disagree with this concept.

People who take decisions on how our money is spent should be electorally accountable at the ballot box. They should not be technocrats and businessmen.

But that's what Government wanted - so, in effect, these Enterprise Partnerships are the old Regional Development Agencies without any pre-planned funding mechanism.

Supporting their creation, in September 2010, Saint Eric said: "The [soon to be abolished] bureaucracy of Regional Development Agencies gave local authorities little reason to engage creatively with economic issues. Local Enterprise Partnerships are a way of tying council and business interests together, and creating the conditions for business to thrive and prosper."

Soon after that, the battle to control the rest of what the RDA had done, (regeneration and re-development) hotted up.

In our area, there was a power struggle between warring factions typically led by local authorities in the region, with equally warring factions in the private sector competing for their influence and sniping from the sidelines.

Those councils and businesses with a regional perspective wanted an LEP based on the North West. Those with a county-wide perspective generally wanted it based on 'Lancashire' - and in this part of the world, those with a more local perspective wanted it based on Blackpool Fylde and Wyre.

In the end the County perspective won out, and the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) came into existence in 2011.

It has a Board of 16 directors including people from the private sector, (representing major employers and small and medium enterprises). The public sector is represented by experts from higher education and political leaders from local authorities. Readers can see more about the organisation at the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership website

And these folk now run Lancashire's strategic planning and transport, skills training and so on, with whatever the Government sees fit to give them to spend.


Government says "The Lancashire LEP and Central Government have agreed to co-invest in the following jointly-agreed priorities.....", and one of those priorities (although there are a lot of other priorities as well) is the "M55 to St Anne's Link Road - [which] will provide a new road connecting the south of Blackpool to the north of St Annes, having a positive impact upon future employment sites (including Whitehills and Blackpool Airport), new housing growth (Heyhouses) and upon tourism, including future hosting of the R&A Open Golf Championships."


Another little nugget in that same document heralded what some have dubbed the 'Fracking College' on the former Blackpool Airport site (a site which is now to be officially known as 'Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone' and not 'Blackpool Airport') where the proposals said....

"The low skill and employment base in Blackpool will be boosted through a new Energy HQ which will deliver the skills needed now and in the future for a growing energy sector in the North West, creating opportunities for local people."

We have digressed again, sorry.

On top of the 233.9m of Local Growth funding committed by the Government, there was also an agreed an expansion to its Growth Deal for an extra 17.2m to be spent in Lancashire between 2016 and 2021.


Then, in 2014, the Local Enterprise Partnership published a Strategic Economic Plan.

The 'Growth Deal' section of that plan prioritises their spending.

The M55 Link Road falls within "Growth Deal Priority 6: The Renewal of Blackpool" - with the addendum that "The M55 to St Annes Link Road, whilst a scheme for Priority 5 Releasing Growth Potential, is referenced within Priority 6 The Renewal of Blackpool, on account of its role in supporting the Blackpool and Fylde Coast economy."


And the narrative for it says:

"M55 to St Annes Link Road
7.212 Ensuring that the local road network can support growth is also important to Blackpool and the broader Fylde Coast economy. The Lytham and St Annes strategic location for development could have a profound effect on the housing market in this important area, to the north of Lytham St Annes, south of Blackpool as well as being directly adjacent to Blackpool Airport and the significant employment sites of Whitehills and Blackpool & Fylde Industrial Estate"

So those who thought the road was about making it easier for local people to get to the motorway from Lytham St Annes look to be in for disappointment.

It's actually about generating more economic activity and, of course, that likely means more, not less, traffic on the roads.

The Plan also says "This would be largely funded locally, through development, but a contribution from SLGF [Single Local Growth Fund] is sought to ensure that the provision of this key infrastructure does not become a barrier to housing and economic growth in this location."

So the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership - perhaps in a faint echo of that other 'Enterprise' crew who sought to 'Live Long and Prosper' - look to have been the first ones to widen the funding net for the road by asking the Government for cash toward it.

(The Single Local Growth Fund was something that was created when the Government asked Local Enterprise Partnerships to develop multi-year local Strategic Economic Plans as part of the Government's June 2013 Spending Review. These plans would also be used as the basis for allocations from the 2 billion a year Single Local Growth Fund that was created in Government's 2015 Spending Review, and which is to be spent on funding skills, housing and transport from 2015/16.)

The costing for the Heyhouses Link Road shown in the LEP's Strategic Economic Plan is:

Project No. 36 - M55 to St Annes Link Road

  • CLGF 3.0 [we assume the initials mean 'Communities and Local Government Funding' ie the Government]

  • Private 11.0 [we imagine this is the developer]

  • Other Public Sector 2.0 [this is likely to be either Lancashire County Council and/or Fylde Borough Council]

  • Total 16.0

And we assume the numbers mean millions.

So that's what was supposed to happen according to the strategy.


This is where the facts disappear and the gossip and assumptions start.

We heard way back that there was trouble with the road delivery and its funding, and that Government had agreed in principle to contribute some cash to the scheme.

We understood that LCC and FBC were also asked if they would put something into the road fund pot.

LCC were said to be sympathetic, and at that time David Eaves was Leader of FBC and he was also said to be sympathetic to the idea of contributing 1m from Fylde.

But then there was a change of Leader at FBC and the present Dear Leader Cllr Susan Fazackerley took office.

We were told by other councillors that she was not in favour of using taxpayers money to fund the road. One told us it almost 'over my dead body' that Fylde would deliver the suggested 1m. Others told us simply that she was 'unwilling' to contribute.

This appears to have produced something of a stalemate situation.

Perhaps even worse, politicians of another hue at County Hall had seen councils in East Lancashire putting their own (Borough) money into road schemes alongside LCC (who are actually the designated Highway Authority), and the view seemed to be taken that if Fylde was not willing to do the same thing, then why should LCC contribute toward a road in Fylde Borough.

We might have pointed out the high levels of taxation (something like 80% of the Council tax we pay) that swell their coffers from Fylde residents - little of which is actually spent in Fylde - as being quite a good reason.

But never mind, we press on regardless.

The stalemate deepened.

We would like to say at this point that, although we often find ourselves disagreeing with Cllr Fazackerley these days (and even more frequently, we find her disagreeing with us), we believe her position in this matter was right if, as was reported to us by others, she was fundamentally opposed to the principle of using Fylde taxpayers money on a road scheme that had been predicated on an appeal permission that required its funding to be met from the proceeds of residential development.

We recall watching the webcast of an LCC planning debate where one of the Fylde County Councillors on planning, (either Cllr Winlow or Hayhurst or Henshaw) said something like - "The thing is, people in Fylde want the road, but they don't want the houses. And if it means that to get the road, they have to have the houses, then they don't want the road."

We thought that was the most succinct description of the situation we have ever encountered.

So we were very happy with the Dear Leader's position not to contribute to the road.

But faced with this fact, some folk started to chip away at the edges of her resolve.

How would it be, for example, if Fylde didn't take taxpayers money to put the 1m in, but rather they used the money from the Government's New Homes Bonus (the bribe that Government gives to Councils who agree to allow new houses to be built).

That didn't seem to cut much ice. We heard it was still No Deal - ostensibly because Fylde had other designs on that income.

OK then, what if they used the future New Homes Bonus from the houses that Kensington would build.

That was not directly from taxpayers and although it was not in the bank either, the scale of the Queensway development would deliver a New Homes Bonus (in excess of the 1m or so that was needed) as the houses became occupied, and the cash was released to Fylde by a Government of the future?

Again it was (in our view, very sensibly) 'No Deal.' - Because there was no guarantee that the New Homes Bonus scheme would continue at that level into the future. A change in Government (or just a change in policy from the incumbent Government) might mean the money that had been laid out for the road would not be recouped.

As it transpired, this was a very sensible concern, because it came to pass that the sums paid in New Homes Bonus *have* been reduced for future schemes.

In fact, not only has the money the Government said it would pay in New Homes Bonuses been reduced, but if a council refuses a planning permission, and the applicant appeals to Government, and the appeal decision goes in favour of the applicant (and against the Council), then only a small part of the New Homes Bonus is paid to the Council. This shows the New Homes Bonus is not about helping councils provide the necessary services, it WAS a bribe, and it is now a blackmail to twist local decisions to the national will (however wrong that may be for local people).

We've digressed again!    Back onto the topic of the M55 Link Road.....

The County were still keen to get the road scheme going, and we heard they said to Fylde - OK, So what if we underwrite the 1m. What if we agree to meet any shortfall if the New Homes Bonus you get from the houses that Kensington build at Queensway if it doesn't match up with the 1m you've contributed to the road scheme?

As you can imagine dear reader, bit by bit, Fylde's resistance to paying into the road pot was being worn down.

We're also not clear whether a further sweetener was offered in that some of the funding to the developer might be provided as a loan (that would be repaid) rather than a direct contribution.

In the end, we believe Fylde's resistance to the principle of funding was overcome.

But that wasn't the end of it.

We heard that LCC were also being asked to grant a loan to help ease the development of the road. We understood they would agree to this, but only for the road construction itself and not for the ancillary works associated with it.

More to-ing and fro-ing followed, and LCC eventually agreed they would include the large chunk of money they would otherwise have to spend doing up Wild Lane if the M55 Link Road did not get built.

But it still wasn't sorted, because then came arguments about phasing the roadbuiding. Would it be built all in one go or over a phased period of several years.

We heard tell at one point that a position of it being provided in three phases over a total of 30 years was mooted.

Further negotiations resulted in what seems to be the present, or at least a recent, situation - an assumption of three phases over 15 years.

Next we heard there were arguments about the nature of the loan(s). Would it/they be interest free, or would interest be charged?.

We understand LCC thought it should not be interest-free.

And again, it seems, the scheme became bogged down.

As we understand it now, the overall funding situation looks like

  • 1.98m of 'Growth Deal' funding,
  • 1.7m contribution from LCC (which they say they would have spent if they re-did Wild Lane)
  • a contribution of 400k from FBC (representing 'infrastructure' money paid to FBC in respect of the Whitehills developments and perhaps elsewhere),
  • plus another 2m of 'local contribution' which, at that time, did not have an identified source.

We're slightly curious about LCC's 1.7m.

That's because the LSE Express of 2014 had said LCC "won't pay the 350,000 to fix Wild Lane" - and to get from that figure to 1.7m is quite an increase.

It may be that the smaller figure is just the cost of patching up the worst part of Wild Lane and the other is for completely re-building it. We're not yet at the bottom of how these two conflicting figured arise.

We're told that at present, the remainder of the (currently estimated) 16.8 or so total cost of the road - and our arithmetic makes that remainder to be about 10m or 11m - is to come from the developer in the form of loans secured ahead of achieving house sales. (The developer would take out a loan to build of the first phase of the road). This would allow for the damaged section of Wild Lane to be bypassed, and the 'link' re-opened - with the first section of the new road having been replaced, and joined onto the remaining part of the 'old' section of Wild Lane.

The remaining 'old sections' would be replaced at a later date as more houses were built.

Construction of the second and subsequent phases of the new M55 Link Road would be linked to the sale/occupation of (we believe currently) 150 dwellings (although some people are suggesting 250). and it is thought this could take at least three years to deliver, and possibly longer.

We understand that whilst this currently favoured arrangement accelerates a start on the project, it doesn't guarantee completion with any certainty.

So the current plan is already looking different to the arrangements that were anticipated by the planning inspector who had said at paragraph number 110 of his advice to the Minister:

"The two applications are inextricably intertwined. Completion of the Link Road would be funded by KPT alone and the Link Road has to be provided to facilitate development on Queensway beyond 375 dwellings."

But even in these revised sums, we still have the 'missing' 2m that had to come from a 'local contribution' - and we think this is where Fylde might have been pressured again, and they have now agreed to provide at least 1m of the 2m that is 'short' (see below).

It was at about this time (when FBC said it would put its hand in our pockets), that the scheme received an unexpected extra boost.

This was because the new 'Highways Agency' - the semi-privatised outfit that now look after major roads - (perhaps having been persuaded by the County Council?) said it was willing to put in a large lump of extra money.

We're told this arrangement was given the nod by David Cameron's Government shortly before the Brexit referendum.

But as we all know, his unsound judgement in the matter of the referendum result caused him to resign as Prime Minister, and we have a new one in place.

The new Cabinet under Mrs May's direction (as the Chinese and Hinkley Point residents now know very well), is reviewing the spending commitments of the administration from whom they took control.

And we're told that has again slowed the scheme down.

The informed view seems to be that Mrs May's brakes would come off and the Road funding would come available, but no-one is certain.

And it was in this environment that Fylde decided to take the plunge and give another 1m toward the road.

And just before the Council meeting to approve her Damascenian conversion to supporting the road, Fylde issued a Press Release.

On 23 June the Gazette picked it up and quoted Fylde's Dear Leader as saying

"It is essential 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 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."

This was a softening up exercise just before the Council agenda was published. We think its aim was to get people into the right frame of mind to accept the idea that the road - which at the time the (appealed) planning permission had been granted, was going to be funded entirely by the developer from the proceeds of the houses,  had now become a partnership in which something like 10 or 11 Million will be paid by the developer, and about 6m will be paid by the public sector using money derived - in one way or another - from taxation.

At least that's roughly how things were expected to be after Fylde's July Council meeting.


At its meeting of 4th July 2016, Fylde Council was asked to debate and consider (amongst other things) whether it would 'approve an 'in principle' contribution of up to 1m towards the cost of construction of the M55 link road up to 2019, with a further report detailing how the remainder of the required contribution may be identified'

Councillors were clearly expected to agree the idea - because the officer's report gave all the advantages and few, if any of the negative aspects. That's a sign the officers believe they are preaching to the already converted.

One possible fly in the ointment might be the EU rules on State Aid. The Legal Department's comments (buried in a box at the end of the report) include

".... Nevertheless, it is necessary to consider whether the proposed public sector contributions (including the council's proposed contribution) might amount to state aid, which is subject to strict control under EU law.......If Kensington would obtain a material financial benefit, it would be wise, should members accept the recommendations in the report, to obtain specialist advice on whether state aid rules would be engaged by the proposed public sector contributions"

The Legal Department also warned that, 'The existing position is that Kensington is obliged to build the road as and when certain trigger points are met. Those trigger points are within the control of Kensington, as they depend on the build-out of houses on its Queensway development. If the development does not reach the final trigger point, the road would not be completed.'

What we think this might mean is that unless some sort of additional agreement could be reached with the developer to provide the road either in one go, (or perhaps to a different - perhaps legally binding - timetable), then whether, and when, the road gets built can be decided by the developer and their chosen rate of housing completions within the development.

So we suspect the injection of public funds into the road project had been contemplated bearing in mind the need to reach an agreement that will deliver the road more quickly and with greater certainty.

We didn't hear any of these points mentioned in the debate on this item, but it seems to us they are pretty relevant.

Despite her previously reported unwillingness to even support the principle of Fylde contributing toward the road, the Dear Leader's own journey to supporting this road trip with taxpayer cash had clearly come via Damascus - because at this Council meeting, she spoke in brightly glowing terms (and for a full, uninterrupted 12 minute monologue) on the benefits and logic of supporting the road, and how important it was to Fylde.

She was seconded by Cllr Roger Small.

Cllr Paul Hayhurst spoke next. He declared a personal interest as the County Councillor for that ward, then said it was probably the most important vote to be taken in his 38 years on the Council. He (not unexpectedly as a ward councillor whose email box will get hammered with complaints whenever there is a traffic snarl-up on Queensway) said that Lytham St Annes "desperately needed this road."

He described the road as "the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle" before saying he was worried about the impact of our leaving the EU and what effect that might have on the road, adding "I'm very concerned whether Kensington will actually go ahead with this, even though this piece of the jigsaw puzzle is in place after tonight"

We imagine he meant the jigsaw piece that was Fylde's contribution of the 1m - which we believe is seen as the key that will, (or could, subject to state aid rules) ensure the funding from other public sources is unlocked. Or, if you look at that another way, the potentially bigger funders seem to be saying to Fylde that if  *you* don't invest some money into the road scheme, then neither will we.

Cllr Hayhurst said he hoped all members would support the road.

But not all of them were going to do that.

counterbalance's own 'Queen Elizabeth' Oades had another view to offer. She (rightly) pointed out that, as a funding item, this should have been considered first by the Finance and Democracy Committee - because this would have provided an opportunity for important questions to be answered and a more in-depth debate to take place than could be had at full Council.

She also wanted members to be aware what the original agreement was with regard to the Link Road. (Unlike this counterbalance report, the officer's report did not address the historical situation with providing and funding the road. We imagine our readers will form their own view as to why the officer report did not go into such detail).

She also wanted to know the impact of the proposal on Fylde's existing and future capital schemes (more later), and how much the developer was putting in.

Once again, we're happy to oblige our readers (as far as we can tell with the arithmetic available to us).

She said she also wanted to know if the 1,150 homes on Queensway would be built if Fylde did not provide the money, and what the likely date of completion of the road would be.

These are all telling questions that we think should have been answered before the decision was taken.

She went on to make the points that "...road building is NOT a Borough Council function, and we're not responsible for delivering roads." Adding "The Government is insisting on a huge increase in delivering house building. Indeed it was the Secretary of State who granted permission for the Queensway Development, and for the Link Road, against local wishes. Now, to add insult to injury, we're being asked to fund part of it.

In order to be able to make this contribution, we're being asked to look at possibly reducing other services or imposing new charges on residents, for services presently funded through the general rate.

We're also being asked to consider not having any Capital schemes for the next few years. This is all very vague and without enough detail for us to make an informed decision on the likely impact this will have on our residents in the future."

With evident feeling, she said: "This road should be funded by the developer, by Government and Lancashire County Council, and it is quite outrageous that during a period that local government is seeing large cuts, that we're being expected to fund something for which we have no responsibility whatsoever."

And she concluded that she was unable to support the proposal.

To be honest we wanted to cheer.

Although we don't always see eye to eye with her, we think Cllr Oades is now quite possibly the most able and accomplished local councillor that Fylde has attending its meetings. She is careful in her topics and words, measured in her approach, brim full of, and driven by, common sense, and (unlike many of the majority party) she is not afraid to speak out strongly with a view that is independent of any pre-ordained 'party line'.

Councillor Elaine Silverwood concurred with her.

Cllr Richard Redcliffe did not. He said he thought it was "an exciting opportunity" and he described it as "a good deal"

(Our own take on his view is that his support for spending our money on a project that is NOT Fylde's responsibility had dropped him considerably lower than the elevated position he once occupied in our informal 'common-sense ranking table' of local councillors.)

The result of the debate was never in doubt of course. The Conservative majority party had quite clearly come to the same view, and they were going to approve the contribution of 1m or perhaps more.

For the benefit of local residents who want to know what this decision will affect, we offer the following analysis.

The assembling of the million pounds will be effected by creating a special M55 Link-road Reserve Account.

This account will have a big bright red funnel sitting above it, and money from all sorts of areas will be thrown into the funnel whenever possible.

The first lump is 196k from another reserve known as the 'Capital Investment Reserve.'

This has emptied the Capital Investment Reserve fund, and the effect of this will be that the Councils programme committees will be instructed that in future they can only consider new capital spending that is:

  • urgently required for health and safety reasons, or;
  • where there is strong business case to protect/enhance existing revenue, or;
  • where it would create a revenue income stream;

That means there will now be something akin to a future moratorium on capital spending at Fylde.

The Officers have also been instructed to look for further opportunities to transfer money into the M55 Link-road Reserve, including additional savings from staff costs (e.g. where re-appointments are delayed after vacancies, and where some posts are not filled at all) and from existing budget savings.

There is also an unspecified implication that increased or additional income from frees and charges will be thrown into the mouth of the big red funnel

So you can expect to see most, if not all, of Fylde's spare cash heading toward the big red funnel.

It won't be as bad as the 'State of Emergency' when the former Commissar ran the coffers almost dry, but it will have an impact on service delivery.

That's because assembling a million pounds is the equivalent of adding about 20% to the present level of Council Tax (CTax currently generates about 5m for Fylde, so finding another 1m is a very big deal).

We should make it very clear this does *not* mean there will be an extra 20% on Fylde's Council tax bill next year. The money will come from things that *were* going to be done that will not now be done, or they will be done more cheaply, (or perhaps from new charges).

Our use of the 20% figure is simply to illustrate the scale of the contribution that Fylde is assembling toward the Road.


So to take stock: The funding - at least in theory - is now (or might soon) be in place, and that looks as though it will shake out as something like:  1m from Fylde; 2m from the LEP (given to them by Government); 1 to 2m from LCC and, if the Highways Agency comes good, it's said that might reduce Fylde's contribution (though we're not sure exactly why that might be the case).

However, three further complications have arisen on the scene.

We understand the issue of whether the road is built in one go or in several phases is not yet regarded as finally settled. FBC look to want it to be in one go, but we're hearing talk of 250 houses before the first section is built. Whether that's accurate or not - and whether it will apply even if Fylde deliver their 1m - we simply don't know.

Secondly, although it may be just the fear of a Brexit-driven housing market downturn that is affecting confidence, (rather than what is actually showing in the figures at present), it is a fact that banking shares lost heavily just after the Brexit vote, and those banks most heavily exposed via loans to developers were the hardest hit. (We believe that's not surprising given the inflated values still sitting within the UK property market - especially in commercial developments in the south east)

So it may transpire that there is at least a slowdown in the house building market - and when you add that to the number of permissions Fylde has granted or expects to see in the near future (e.g. 1,500 at Whyndyke, a similar or even bigger number at Warton, plus the Kirkham developments that are in train at present etc), it must make any developer wonder how easily they will be able to sell property unless they delay the start of building for a few years, or use very slow build-out rates. So in summary, it's probably not the best of times to be stating a new development.

Furthermore, if you are a developer who has planning permissions to build on some decent green land elsewhere, and you have a planning permission on land that has substantial areas of difficult peat soil (that will require specially adapted and expensive foundations for roads, sewers and houses to prevent subsidence), AND a requirement to provide an expensive new road, then you might think it would be better (or at least more profitable) to build on all the 'other' (easier) land in your portfolio first.

And thirdly, and this is perhaps the greatest concern for those who want to see the road and the houses built, the planning permission for the road expires next June. We think that puts the County Council in a very strong position when they're negotiating the arrangements to implement the present planning permission.

We say that because if they are asked for, but they believe they have justifiable reasons not to agree to an extension of the existing planning permission for the road, then we think the developer will have to apply for a new planning permission to replace it, and the cost of a new planning application for the road is likely to be a serious financial issue, even for a big developer.

And, of course, as Cllr Hayhurst (who probably knows more about this deal with the road than any other councillor) said in the Fylde Council meeting, the Brexit-driven housing slowdown might become the underlying cause of problems - such as the expiry of the road's planning permission, and if that happens, the developer might find themselves wedged between a rock and a hard place.

So whilst some of the omens are positive, we see more that are negative, and our own take is that there may yet be further delays - depending on the developer's view of when they want to make a start on the scheme of course.

There could also be further changes the scheme itself, both to the funding proportions, and to the phasing of the road's construction relative to the housing buildout.

When we have more gossip - or better still some more hard facts - we'll bring them to our readers, but this is the best we can do for now.

Dated:  31 August 2016

Update 3 Sep 2016: We're grateful to our eagle-eyed reader who spotted that we had used the Google map/AA map data to  (incorrectly) describe this junction as ('where Heyhouses Lane joins Blackpool Road/North Houses Lane). It doesn't of course. Heyhouses Lane becomes Blackpool Road at the Smithy Lane and North Houses Lane junction, and the traffic light junction to which we referred is a little further along Blackpool Road toward Lytham.



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