Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Transport group anger at County's attempts to restrict Link debate

Local transport campaign group Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe has hit out at Lancashire County Council's attempts to stifle debate on the M6 link during a new consultation programme, which runs until the end of July.

As we reported earlier, Lancashire County Council is hosting more consultations about the Heysham M6 Link this week.

The Council has, however, decreed that local people can only express their views on the recent changes, not the whole scheme. In their notes explaining “What is the consultation about?” they state the route and road type, design standards, and landscape and ecology proposals, “will not be open for consultation or change”. Methods of construction, and landscape and ecology proposals (unfixed), are.

As we reported, under the terms of the scheme's consideration by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (PDF link), it is apparent that the Infrastructure Planning Commission, which will consider the scheme, made it clear to the County Council that it is possible for residents to comment on the entire scheme.

The IPC’s requirements for consultation clearly stress  the importance of early involvement and allowing the public to influence the way projects are developed by providing feedback on potential options.

TSLM argues that by trying to restrict what can be commented on, the Council has made the consultation invalid and that the it does not comply with IPC requirements.

“The application will be for the whole scheme, not just the changes”, says David Gate of TSLM. “The justification on traffic and job numbers is new. The new planning authority lays stress on early and full consultation with the local community. So that consultation should not be restricted – it should be on the whole scheme.”

After the changes to the scheme, required by the government to reduce costs, it will now be submitted to the new planning authority for large building projects, the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). A submission is expected in September 2011, but IPC procedures require that there should be a full consultation on it with local people first.

“We ask people to attend the consultations and give their views”, says Mr Gate, “but not just on the changes – on the whole scheme. Other solutions, other routes and other engineering designs should be considered and consulted on.”

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