Lancashire County Council’s transport and highways boss has quashed rumours that plans for a Pendle villages bypass have taken a U-turn.
Speaking at Boundary Mill, County Coun. John Fillis confirmed it is instead “just the beginning” of the proposals.
The £40m outline plans, which could see the M65 linked to Foulridge around Colne, were revealed in October as part of an East Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan.
They were met with mixed reaction from local residents, with some keen to see the traffic in North Valley Road alleviated, and others worried a bottleneck could be created through rural villages.
Other concerns included the fact the development could create a blight on the landscape, and for owners of a bed and breakfast at Grade II listed Blakey Hall Farm, in Red Lane, Colne, there were serious fears the “brown route” could cut right through their home and business.
A Foulridge anti-bypass campaign was also launched, attracting nearly 400 likes on Facebook, and an e-petition has been formed.
But now, with the initial public consultation complete, County Coun. Fillis has said there has been an “overwhelming” amount of feedback on the bypass plans – with 80% of businesses showing their support.
He urged opposers to think about the future of the area, and stressed the need to support and boost economic growth, encourage new business and development while avoiding gridlock on our roads.
He said: “People do have genuine concerns, but we hope they are not overwhelmed by ideology.
“We have to think about what is going to happen in future.
“All councils are being asked to build thousands of new homes, and thousands of new business development areas, to generate economy and provide homes.
“It is important to keep moving, but we will also take our time to ensure what we do is in keeping with the majority of people’s wishes.
“We are talking five, 10, 15 years ahead here. Plans could be accelerated or decelerated, we can’t say for sure. But what we can say is we are looking forward to the future on this one.
“Anything we can do to improve the traffic flow, we will do. We have to look at what is best for the majority – there is more to it than just the bypass.”
According to County Coun. Fillis, out of the six options available, the “brown route” was favoured most throughout the consultation.
A major factor that was also taken on board was congestion along the Vivary Way and North Valley Road corridor.
As a result, a three-stage strategy has now been outlined, to begin with improvements being made on the notorious route over the coming year.
In the second stage of the strategy, LCC say close attention will be paid to the likely effects the development could have on traffic volumes and movements along North Valley Road, and make clear whether improvements are needed.
And finally, updates will be made to information on traffic volumes and destination of traffic, to help build a business case for investment if substantial improvements can be made to the transport network in and around Colne. This includes the prospect of a new bypass.
County Coun. Fillis added: “Hopefully we can work with people, listen to what they have to say, and try to accommodate as many people as possible.
“We are encouraging people to get involved where they can – at the end of the day it is taxpayers’ money and their votes.”
Opposers were invited to attend County Hall to discuss the plans and air their views following a cabinet meeting yesterday.