Sunday, 24 March 2013

Transport Solutions mystified by dubious go ahead for M6 Link

Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe has now studied the full report recommending the go ahead for the M6 Link and has issued the following statement.

The observations on the road plan in the report made by the Planning Inspectorate’s Peter Robottom, who described it as "inappropriate development", call into question the entire basis on which it has been given the go ahead.

The approval of the road on the basis of dubious claims made by the County Council as to its benefits almost seem on a par with the decision on the government's handling of the West Coast Main Line franchise, which has also proven a costly mistake for all concerned - rather like the open ended cost of this road scheme, estimated at over £123 million at a time of economic crisis.

TSLM has made the following statement in response to the report.

"On Tuesday 19th March the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced that he had allowed the Heysham M6 Link Road to go ahead. His decision was based on the Report from the Planning Inspectorate’s Peter Robottom, following the Examination in Lancaster Town Hall in the summer of 2012.

"TSLM is disappointed with the decision and the report on which it is based.

· The examiner accepted that the road would cause great harm to the landscape to the North of Lancaster; it is “inappropriate development “ in the Green Belt, and will harm wildlife;
· He accepted it would damage air quality and increase noise in the area of the road;
· He accepted that it would increase CO2 emissions, when the Climate Change Act imposes mandatory targets to reduce them vastly: 'a significantly negative factor';
· He accepted that the Council’s traffic forecasts had slumped since the road was first justified;
· He accepted that the benefits could be much lower than the Council claim, and
· He accepted that DfT guidance was not followed.

"But he judged that the speculative benefits which the Council claimed for the scheme would outweigh the clear harms that it would bring:

1. He believed Heysham Port companies’ claims that they are expanding, and need a road. IN FACT, while the Port has expanded for the past few quarters, it has declined since 1997. And their need for a road must be undermined by their absolute refusal, when asked, to make any contribution towards it.

2. He believed that traffic would reduce on the Lune bridges. BUT this modest aim must be seen in the context of traffic going down on some roads but up on others, and travellers being encouraged to use their cars.

3. He believed that opportunities for sustainable transport would result. BUT these could be implemented without the road.

4. He believed the Council’s case on regeneration. BUT journey time savings of 5 minutes, in peak times only, are not significant."

David Gate, co-ordinator of TSLM said: “Our team made these points well, backed up by hard evidence. We presented clear alternatives of sustainable transport that would be cheaper and more effective.

"It is disappointing, and bad news for the future of our area, that the Examiner preferred the Council’s illusion that the road will solve everything.”

One piece of good news has been welcomed by campaigners.

"The Examiner ruled that Broadoak could remain on part of its land. He ruled against the Council, to save a thriving local business with 15 employees. It can keep the land where its offices are now, although its storage yard must move to another site.

"So the brave stand of the owner, Derek Sumner, secured one small victory for common sense and real jobs."

Mike Jacob, who was part of the Halton team that worked hard to present impressive evidence at the Examination, said of the Report: "It shows a very lax approach to inspection. He allows substandard design on the Halton Link Road, which wouldn’t have been considered at this level if TSLM hadn’t presented detailed evidence. He has a naive faith in the effect of "calming measures" on Halton's bends. He cannot be proud of his assessment of the threats to our safety. A rickety piece of writing.”

TSLM is discussing with legal advisers the possibility of mounting a legal challenge on the many weaknesses of this decision.

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