Despite the opposition of local people and both Lancaster and Morecambe Councils, Lancashire County Council - already set to make swingeing cuts to vital services in the New Year - is pressing on with its plans to build the unwanted, expensive Link Road between the motorway and Heysham.
The deadline for objections to the Compulsory Purchase Orders and Side Road Orders for the Heysham M6 Link road has now passed. Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe tell virtual-lancaster that although they do not have official figures, they believe that the Government Office for the North West has received over 400 formal objections, against two letters in support. (View details of the original planning permission given for the road in 2008 here)
Opposition has been so strong that GONW is now seriously considering whether to call an inquiry to allow public scrutiny of many of the contentious Link road issues.
"Particular congratulations must go to Morecambe Town Council, who voted overwhelmingly (17-1) to send an objection," commented TSLM spokesperson David Gate. "They join our MP Geraldine Smith and Lancaster City Council, as the elected representatives of this area who oppose the Northern route scheme.
"Support for the damaging and destructive scheme comes only from County Hall in Preston," he added. "The new Lancashire County Council does not appear to have any original transport ideas of its own; it merely plods along pushing the old Council’s outdated road scheme."
Back in August, the County Council announced it was looking at trying to find savings of perhaps up to 142 million from its budget - 20 per cent of the Council's spending across the County. The Lancashire Telegraph reported their first task will be to find £16million in savings by February in order to achieve a zero per cent council tax increase in 2010/11, a key election pledge by the Tories, which was re-iterated by national Tory leader David Cameron on campaigning visits to Lancashire.
"Despite financial cutbacks to essential services in Lancashire, LCC is today continuing to spend many millions of pounds of public money on the Link road," notes David. "With the reality of financial cutbacks, surely that money could be better spent on more deserving services for the people of Lancashire.
"The Northern route dual carriageway would destroy 173 acres of our North Lancashire Green Belt, and its traffic would pump out an extra 23,500 tonnes of CO2 into our North Lancashire environment every year. All that devastation in the illusion that building an HGV road across the district will somehow regenerate the area."
LCC recently announced that the £140 million plan is going out to tender to large national construction firms. "The reality of the ‘regeneration’ is that the lion’s share of this public money will not be spent locally, but will fill the coffers of national and multinational companies," argues David, "and taxpayers will be saddled with a debt that is unknown, but huge."
David again points out that there alternatives to massive road building - but those in power at Preston seem to have simply ignored them.
"In 2007 traffic consultants Faber Maunsell developed an integrated transport package for the district, including changes to the one way systems, park and ride, public transport improvements and a bridge at Luneside. These are measures that would really tackle congestion in the district, yet no money is earmarked for them, and it is likely that, with the budget blown on the Link Road, there will be no money left for them.
"2010 will be another costly uphill struggle for LCC and its Link road plan; further public scrutiny is likely, and the chances of government funding must be receding when the country is in so much debt," says David. "We hope that a public inquiry will be called, and if it is, TSLM too will be asking for funding, to pay for the expert help that we shall need to present our case well."