The Secretary of State has given the go-ahead for Lancashire County Council to start land assembly for the Preston Western Distributor, set to open in 2023.
The proposed scheme will link the west side of Preston to the M55, connecting the A583 with a new Junction 2 on the motorway near Bartle. Construction of this road will improve transport connectivity as well as unlocking a number of housing and employment sites.
There will also be a two-mile east-west link road connecting to Lightfoot Lane, and a link road at Cottam.
A business case for the project has already been signed off, despite costs rising by around £60m, while a planning application has also been approved.
The Secretary of State has now signed off the land assembly process, following a public inquiry last November, and this will allow the council to use compulsory purchase order powers to bring together the land it needs to deliver the project.
This will allow work to start later this year, and the new roads are expected to be open in 2023. Costain has been attached to the project as main contractor for some time.
The total estimated cost of the 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.
The council had been criticised over its delivery of the project, with Robertson Group and the Tom Barron Pension Fund submitting a development consent order for the scheme directly to the Secretary of State last year in what was billed as an “unprecedented” move.
At the time, Robertson and the pension fund claimed this would “correct the procedural errors” in the council’s approach to the scheme, while claiming to provide “significant cost savings and planning benefits”.
However, it is understood Robertson has since withdrawn its objections, allowing the project to get under way.