Preston Road 2
The council's proposals for the link road, which are set to be superseded by Robertson's application

Council criticised over ‘flawed’ £190m link road application

Charlie Schouten

Robertson Group and the Tom Barron Pension Fund have submitted a development consent order for Preston’s £190m Western Distributor link road directly to the Secretary of State after discussions with Lancashire County Council broke down.

Lancashire County Council approved a planning application for the road, which is due to link the M55 with the A583 Riversway to the west of the city, in October last year, and a business case was signed off in January this year, despite costs on the project rising by around £60m.

The compulsory purchase order and land assembly process was signed off in February this year.

An updated application, designed to mitigate the road’s impact on the environment, was due to go before Lancashire County Council on 14 November.

However, Robertson Asset Management, part of the wider Robertson Group, and the Tom Barron Pension Fund have now submitted a revised application for the project directly to the Secretary of State for Transport, in a move it said was “unprecedented” and would “correct the flaws and procedural errors” in the county council’s application.

Robertson and Tom Barron’s interest is in the North West Preston strategic development site at Bartle, which is joined to the new link road via a roundabout. A masterplan for the area was adopted in 2017, and this features around 5,300 houses over a developable area of around 437 acres.

The revised application has now been submitted as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, meaning it has to be determined by the Transport Secretary, rather than the local highways authority. A development consent order has now been submitted to the planning inspectorate by Robertson and Tom Barron, which will then examine the revised scheme and make a report to the Transport Minister.

If consent is granted, Robertson and Tom Barron will establish a development consent order to allow work to start on site. Costain was originally attached as main contractor to Lancashire County Council’s planning application.

The updated design is understood to deliver the road in broadly the same manner, but the DCO approach is claimed to provide “significant cost savings and planning benefits”, and bypasses the need for the local authority to approve the planning application.

A spokesperson from Tom Barron and Robertson Group said: “The decision to submit an application for the revised Preston Western Distributor route marks the next big step in unlocking the economic potential of North West Preston.

“The delivery of the new road provides an opportunity to reduce congestion locally, whilst also providing an opening for the sustainable delivery of the new homes that are identified to be needed in the local area unfortunately we were forced to take the route of a DCO application directly to the Secretary of State due to the procedural flaws within Lancaster County Councils choice of application.”

The 4.3km dual carriageway will join the A583 with a new junction at Old Hall Farm, and run through to another new junction with the M55 near the Bartle Hall Hotel. There will also be a 3.4km east-west link road connecting to Lightfoot Lane, and a link road at Cottam.

The total estimated cost of the three roads in this scheme is £189.45m, to be met from a combination of public and private sector funds. This would include £58m of Lancashire’s Local Growth Fund, specifically supporting the dual carriageway.

Highways England will provide £25m towards the cost of the motorway junction, while further contributions would be secured from housing developers.

Lancashire County Council was contacted for comment.

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Yet another vast volume built housing estate designed for cars with minimal public transport and no prospect of serious walking or cycling. Well done Preston Council! Can’t blame the developer, they exist to be greedy – but shouldn’t we expect more from the local planning authority?

By Peter Black