Thursday, 28 November 2013

M6 Link clears last legal hurdle, County Council's favourite white elephant finally goes ahead

Pictured at the construction depot for the M6 link - the County Council's Heysham to M6 Link Road project director Steve McCreesh, Costain project manager Andrew Langley, County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and tran! sport, Phil Barrett, LCC director of Lancashire Highway Services.

Local pro-road builders are jumping for joy today, after the £125 million plus Heysham to M6 Link Road that will save an incredible five minutes journey time for Heysham to Lancaster commuters cleared the last legal hurdle.

Work on the Heysham to M6 Link Road will now begin in the New Year after a final attempt by Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe to stop the controversial scheme – whose cost over runs will be the responsibility of the County Council – was thrown out by the Court of Appeal.

The decision clears the way for Lancashire County Council to start building the £124.5m road linking the Heysham Peninsula to the M6 motorway, which the County claims heralds a new era for economic growth and improved transport.

The County Council argues link will provide better access to Morecambe and industrial areas which include the Port of Heysham and the Heysham power stations. It will also reduce congestion in the Lancaster area, particularly on Caton Road, Morecambe Road and the Greyhound and Skerton bridges – although in its own evidence it has acknowleged the journey savings may be as little as five minutes.

The project has long been one of Lancashire County Council's top priority transport schemes, after all other routes were rejected – leaving it only with a route planners previously claimed made no sense and originally had limited political support.

When the route became the only road building option, local political parties changed their minds and joined the Liberal Democrats in backing this northern route, claiming it wasn't the best option but arguing road building was the only solution to the area's traffic woes.

Lancashire Ciounty Council rejected alternative transport schemes out of hand and insisted any potential traffic calming measures, such as Park and Ride could only be included as part of the road scheme and not considered as a separate item.

Development consent for the Link was awarded in March 2013 following a lengthy process that included a six month examination period with three weeks of public hearings and further work by the County Council to put the plans in order after its own staff made several mistakes in the planning process.

Campaigners against the link road, Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe requested permission to apply for a judicial review to challenge the decision by the Secretary of State to grant approval for the project.

Following a two-day hearing held in July, a judgement was issued by the High Court in October, which rejected all five grounds put forward for the challenge and refused TSLM permission to make the application for judicial review.

TSLM made further applications to the Court of Appeal, asking for the High Court's judgement to be overturned. The last of these was made today during an oral hearing, with the judge again finding no substance to their case against the road.

County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "We've always been confident of the case for the link road, which is widely supported by local people and businesses, and I couldn't be more pleased that we can now get on with building it.

"The road will provide excellent value for money in terms of considerable benefits for local traffic, businesses and employment, while acting as a catalyst for wider economic growth," he argues.

"Whilst I'm very satisfied at the strong judgement in our favour, I'm also extremely frustrated that objectors have cost the people of Lancashire an extra £2.6m by pursuing what amount to no more than delaying tactics.

"I went to see the depot being constructed earlier this week, and I'm looking forward to seeing work on the road itself start in earnest in the New Year."

Lancashire County Council's contractor Costain recently began constructing an area to accommodate staff, offices and equipment needed to build the link road at an army camp on Halton Road leased from the Ministry of Defence. The depot is scheduled to be completed in time to allow work on the road to begin in January.

The new road will complete the long awaited connection from the Heysham and Morecambe peninsula to Junction 34 of the M6, and will be a 4.8km dual carriageway with a footpath and cycleway along the entire route.

The project also involves a fully remodelled junction 34, with new slip roads, a new bridge over the River Lune and a 600 space park and ride site. The new road will provide better access for residents, businesses and tourists to the area.

The link road project features a number of associated improvements including a park and ride scheme with buses running from the park and ride site into Lancaster city centre, and bus priority, cycle and walking measures. (All of which, as noted above, could have been introduced before).

The County claims the link road will improve access to Heysham Port, the third largest in the North West, allowing it to develop as a hub for services to Ireland. It is the supply base for major offshore gas field and wind farms.

And, of course, the road would also improve access to a possible third nuclear power station, not to mention opportunities for other building along the route.

The Council argues road access to the port, which specialises in roll-on roll-off freight, is currently severely congested and unreliable, acting as a barrier to further growth.

(The Council refused to consider proposals to improve the rail link with a lorry park at Carnforth, which would have cost far less than the road that will now be built. Ironically, as it champions road building here in Lancaster, the County is arguing that there are too many roads in Skelmersdale and it would be better serviced if it had a train station. Go figure..).

The Council claims the scheme will bring ongoing regeneration benefits, with 3,000 people due to be employed during construction alone. Up to 100 local unemployed people will receive training and jobs during construction.

A contested study has predicted that every £1 invested in the link road will earn £4.40 for the economy.

The contractor Costain has been selected to construct the road and has been in discussion with local firms for some time.

Andrew Langley, Costain project manager, said: "We are just looking forward to getting started on the construction of the new road. We have already engaged with several loc! al companies, and have already started the local employment and training programme."

An additional benefit of reduced congestion will be improved air quality, and the scheme includes a number of measures to protect the environment by improving wildlife habitats, tree cover and watercourses.

Terms have been negotiated with Costain that gives an estimated construction cost of £124.5m. The Department for Transport has said it will contribute £111m and Lancashire County Council will fund the remainder.

• Lancashire County Council M6 Link Information: Search for Heysham Link at

• When the road is built and when it becomes as congested as the rest of local roads now - we give it three years, tops, before the Council starts asking for another road – why not check out the Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe's web site and view its costs alternatives, all of which were much cheaper than the road and didn't destroy part of our Green Belt?


Anonymous said...

save 5 minutes journey time?? Your joking, more like 35 minutes.

Anonymous said...

Get in

No more carlisle bridge

Fantastic news

Just wish LCC would sue Gate for the costs

Virtual Lancaster said...

That's not what the County Council said during the Inquiry.

Tufty Squirrel said...

Petrol heads might be crowing, but think on this - the Heysham M6 Link Road is the costliest of all Britain's local authority road schemes - according to figures released by the Department for Transport in April 2012. At £41 million per mile, it beats its nearest rival hands down. (That's £25,677 per metre, or £648 per inch, if you prefer). Second-placed Kingskerswell in Devon can only manage £19,582 per metre.

Yet plans are full steam ahead to fund this top-priced scheme. Yes, this is in the same universe as the one where councils such as Lancashire are cutting services, everything from youth services to residential care homes and many jobs, cuts that damage people’s lives.

What’s more, Lancashire County Council has earned the promise of some government funding by increasing its own contribution to £12.3 million, and accepting all cost overruns. But we believe that the real cost of the HM6L we be at least £17 million more than currently admitted, all of which will end up being paid by the Council.

For cutting essential services and for spending on the country’s most costly road scheme, Lancashire leads the way.

Tufty Squireel said...

From the way some people tell it , especially the County Council, you would think that everyone in this area was in favour of the scheme, apart from a few trees here or there, and the Council have worked diligently to give us what we want.

But like it or not, a lot of people who attended the consultation about this road were dead against the scheme, including Lancaster's Mayor. Throughout the whole process the County Council consistently displayed a pompous “we know best” attitude on the plan and brooked no discussion of alternatives. They certainly didn't investigate them as potentially cheaper ones, which they should have done.

The Council was always keen to point out that most people “understand the scheme. I agree – they understood and understand still how harmful and useless it is.

Incredibly, they trashed the original the Western Route – twice the length, twice the cost, attracts less traffic, poor value for money. Forgetting that it was the Council’s preferred route, through thick and thin, right up to 2004. I didn't agree with the western route either, and neither did the farmers whose land it would have split (never mind the newts, always LCC's excuse for it not being built). It was the route also backed by local MPs.

I have a letter from David Morris who effectively says the new road isn't the best route but it's the only one we can have. Not exactly a strong argument in its favour.

I've always agreed Lancaster's road system was a mess but in my view it's been made worse by the County Council's own inability to look it as a whole, dropping in more and more traffic lights that stop and start traffic and cause delays, their refusal to initiate park and ride without building the road (why?) and much more. Unfortunately the Council simply fostered an atmosphere where alternatives were labelled as bad (alternatives they didn't investigate even though others had) and the planners simply dug their heels in and decided a road was the only solution.

Sand grown un said...

This is truly wonderful news. Rejoice! Rejoice!

eartheart said...

It is tough choice, those who want £125mn spent on this shouldn't moan when The Platform, Skerton School millions of pounds of other Morecambe services and pretty much all social care services are shut down to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

Why I wonder are the writters on this site so negative about everything. They just loose all credibility and value to the site. I can remember when it was quite accurate!
Get out more and go and see that more than half the road has already been built! All we want is it finishing!

Tufty Squirrel said...

Maybe it's because every time the pro road users make a comment it's often been punctuated by insults rather than reasoned argument? Following the logic of some pro-road comments ("if you don't like the road leave", was one!) I've seen in favour if this road, if you don't like being stuck in traffic why the hell live in Heysham?

StarlingUK said...

Before: driving around the one way system to get to the supermarket.

After: driving around the one way system to get to the supermarket.

Sure, it'll be great improvement. Not.

Any lorries that are in Lancaster city centre are going to the Lune Industrial estate. People who live in Lancaster itself *still* have to use Carlisle bridge to get to the other side of the Lune and drive all the way around the sodding one way system to get *anywhere*.

White elephant, indeed.

John Freeman said...

Good to see that the pro-road builders standard of argument remains at such a high standard. How many of you ever bothered to look at the much cheaper alternatives proposed to this road?

No matter how many times it's pointed out the County Council have agreed to pick up the tab for any cost over runs, insisting it will be on budget, this is ignored. Perhaps some of you can give me an example of a major infrastructure project that has ever run to budget.

Local business cried and whined for this road for years, but when they were asked to contribute, none of them did.

The County Council could have built Park and Ride years ago but never did, linking it intractably with this scheme for the past few years. And for what? A road the County say will cut journey times by five minutes from Heysham to the M6, a road every political party (apart from the Liberals) said was the wrong one for years...

If it's negative to favour an integrated transport system, where the pros and cons of a new transport scheme are assessed on the same basis (which road and rail for example are not), then I make no apology for being 'negative'.

I'm not a 'tree hugger' or a 'newt lover' (which is about the level of argument some seem to be able to come up with) - I think cars are dead useful. But I think they're also over used. I'm also amazed at the people who complain about traffic for example but I watch many car drivers going to work from the same direction and they're the only person in the car. Is it any wonder there is so much traffic?

But don't worry, folks, you've got your road, at a still unknown cost, which ultimately won't actually save you much time but has been built on the route it has on the basis that it's not the best route but it's the best one available. That was MP David Morris logical justification for building it.

And great news too, that now the road's being built, there's talk of a third nuclear power station. But I'm sure you won't mind about that, either, despite the attendant dangers of the technology, or that the ones we already have are built on a fault line.

James Corden said...

If the pro road users are so proud of this stupid, wrong headed road why do they always post anonymously?

Mike Gibson said...

The article is a good one and gives some interesting views and balance, however I want to express concern over the email that accompanied it.

It says: "Any cost over runs will be the responsibility of the County Council. Public services such as education and social care services have been severely cut to cover the potential costs"

This is a complete lie and fabrication. Capital costs are completely separate from revenue / service costs, and have to be by law. The only things affected by a cost increase will be other capital projects, but most certainly the roads budget.

To imply that cost over-runs will be borne from running costs of education and social services is scandalously poor journalism and only intended to force people to view this topic in a different light, not by making the case but through a blatant lie.

Virtual Lancaster has done a great job making the case against a link road but this is stepping way over the threshold. The rest of the email is a panicked rant and is just opinion rather than fact, that the article does better.

Chris Satori said...

It isn't strictly relevant to the news item above, which is a good write-up by John Freeman, but one of our readers, Michael Gibson, has pointed out that I made an accounting error in an accompanying piece I wrote for the Virtual-Lancaster newsletter published and distributed to our mailing list on 6th December 2013.

In this I stated that "cost over runs will be the responsibility of the County Council. Public services such as education and social care services have been severely cut to cover the potential costs".

Michael has pointed out that "Capital costs are completely separate from revenue / service costs, and have to be by law. The only things affected by a cost increase will be other capital projects, but most certainly the roads budget." Running costs such as education and social services do not come out of this budget.

It is a fair criticism of my newsletter article. However I would argue that some cost over-runs, including a part of the considerable costs of preparation for the project, have already been borne out of the County Council's departmental revenue budgets.

I am not sure which budget the sale of an asset such as a school building and its grounds, or a library might eventually go into. Would this be capital or revenue?

Michael Gibson said...

Sorry but Chris is guilty of exactly the same in her reply above as she was in the original newsletter piece. She’s attempting to justify the unjustifiable with more of the same. Calling it an ‘accounting error’ is wrong, it is deliberate misrepresentation of the facts.

Firstly this comment:

“However I would argue that some cost over-runs, including a part of the considerable costs of preparation for the project, have already been borne out of the County Council's departmental revenue budgets.”

There is absolutely no evidence for this, only guesswork. Cost over-runs for the project work will be borne out of the capital budget and not the revenue budget, as it is an inflationary increase in the capital cost. As for the additional work undertaken by planners to continue with court hearings then this will come out of the planning budget.

However you’ll find the pro-road lobby making the very valid case that the only reason for the additional cost was an unsuccessful appeals process undertaken by TSLM that at each step judges rejected. Rightly, in my view, they'll lay the blame directly at the feet of TSLM.

“I am not sure which budget the sale of an asset such as a school building and its grounds, or a library might eventually go into. Would this be capital or revenue?”

Again there is absolutely no evidence for this only guessing and without any knowledge whatsoever of how capital receipts are used. If Satori can tie the closure of a school, for example, to the budget for the road then she might win some journalism award. However she won’t because there is enough reserves in the capital pot to cover the extra for the road many times over. That's what reserves and contingencies are for.

Very happy for her to make her case with fact but not guesses based on falsely implying that LCC are using school and library closures or their budgets to pay for roads when their simply is no evidence for it.

Chris Satori said...

Following the spending review, the DfT wrote to the County Council warning them to halt work on their preparation as funding was not guaranteed. The County continued to push ahead with the preparation work however. Because a vital part of the project needed to be nailed down, to make all that trouble worthwhile - the award of the contract to Costain.

County's argument then was that although no capital funding was available, the costs could be borne out of the normal running costs of the departments involved - and also from money set aside aside by County.

Hairy Dog Appreciation Society said...

The HM6L is now clearly as the evidence shpws not going to be completed on time or on budget. Well done those contributors above who predicted the truth and thank you VL for an excellent piece of top quality journalism.