Lancashire County Council (LCC) planners have completely missed out an important step in the statutory planning process required for their Heysham M6 Link road plans meaning they will have to go back to the drawing board - literally - to come up with new plans, adding further cost to the much criticised scheme.
The County Council is required by law to provide a scheme under the Highways Act for the massive new low-level bridge over the River Lune, which is, at Halton, a navigable water. The Council has gone ahead with its Compulsory Purchase procedure without the necessary scheme, even though they were told by the Department for Transport that this would be needed.
The Government Office for the North East (GONE), acting on behalf of the Department for Transport, actually advised LCC's Solicitors in January 2009 that, if the river is navigable, then a scheme would be required.
"It seems that neither the lawyers nor the planners bothered to investigate whether the river is navigable at Halton," said David Gate, chair of local transport campaign group Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe. "Everyone in this part of the world knows that the River Lune is most definitely navigable on that stretch, and we have collected a large body of evidence and sent it to the DfT to prove the point. Several boat and canoe clubs have used this stretch of river for many years. Local people have rowed on the River Lune for over a hundred years."
In the face of this mass of evidence of navigation, the County Council will have no alternative but to make a scheme for the road bridge, submit it to the DfT for consideration and publish it for possible objection. As a minimum, TSLM believe this will add significantly to the timetable and the omission may also delay DfT consideration of a further public inquiry into the controversial £140 million road plans.
"The County Council has simply ignored the comments of government experts and gone full steam ahead with their plans," says David. "The planners from Preston have once again ignores local people. They have rushed to try and secure taxpayer funding before the Government implements spending cuts, but now they may have sailed their plan onto the rocks."