Warrington progresses bridge funding talks

Warrington Council is close to agreeing a £72m deal with the government to fund the construction of a bridge across Manchester Ship Canal and unlock the 200-acre Warrington Waterfront site.

Once, and if, funding is confirmed and allocated Warrington Council will undertake a thorough and comprehensive public consultation process with residents and stakeholders regarding the proposed traffic routes. This will also include achieving planning permission for key pieces of infrastructure.

The route for the Waterfront West Link, will provide a connection from the A56 Chester Road to the A57 Sankey Way, including a high level bridge across the Manchester Ship Canal.

Warrington Waterfront is an £160m initiative to open up a site to the south west of the town centre currently locked by water, road and rail lines. Additionally it will release the potential of the town's underutilised waterfronts which face onto the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey and also assist traffic movement in and around the town.

Infrastructure works would be required in a number of phases to facilitate the plans. Funding for the first stage, a bridge across the River Mersey linking Chester Road to Centre Park, was announced in the growth fund package in July 2014.

Warrington Council said that the government has recently indicated that it expects to be able to provide funding for the most significant phase of the project, the Waterfront West Link. The council will continue to press for a formal confirmation that this money is to be released. If the government were to release the full funding this stage of the project could potentially be completed by 2021.

Cllr Terry O'Neill, leader of Warrington Council, said: "This is another visionary, transformational project for Warrington by Warrington Council. It has the potential to unlock massive economic growth expansion for the town and relieve the gridlock at Bridgefoot roundabout.

"However, no government funding is in place at the moment to allow this project to proceed. At present it is an aspiration. In the coming months there will be many discussions taking place with the government and agencies as to how this transformational project can be funded allowing it to be brought forward.

"If and when funding is made available Warrington Council will then be able to progress the plans further and embark on the major public and stakeholder engagement and consultation that would be required in order for it to proceed along with then achieving planning permission through the normal democratic process."

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If this comes off, and that’s a big IF, it will be a major and long-awaited boost to the town. Bridgefoot is a major blockage at the moment and at peak periods the queues to get through that vital junction can stretch for miles in each direction. That will only get worse when the tolls are imposed on the new Mersey crossing at Runcorn. So, I hope the deal is signed off in the next couple of months and the ‘project’ doesn’t just turn out to be electioneering.

By Ian Jones

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