This article is in the current edition of the Big Issue in the North magazine.
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The Preston City Deal new roads plan is one of many proposals by new local transport bodies criticised in a new report. The Campaign for Better Transport and Campaign to Protect Rural England fear new roads are being prioritised at the expense of buses, bikes and public transport.
Last year, the government invited 20 cities to negotiate City Deals, giving them new powers and freedoms.
The multi-million pound Preston deal was signed in Downing Street in September by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, minister for cities Greg Clark, local businesses and leaders from Preston City Council, South Ribble Council and Lancashire County Council.
Transport for Lancashire (TFL) will now oversee four new highway schemes in the Preston City Deal, funded by the councils and central government.
Supporters claim the new investment will add £1 billion to the local economy by paving the way for 15,000 new homes and increasing the attractiveness of local employment sites, including the Lancashire Enterprise Zone at Salmesbury and Warton. Clegg expressed his hope that “more cities will follow Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire’s lead”.
That seems almost certain from the information published by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in their report Where the money’s going – are the new local transport bodies (LTBs) heading in the right direction?
These 39 new bodies have put forward £1.3 billion of spending plans on 210 proposed projects. The report scored schemes for their transparency in choosing their funding priorities and whether they have considered a full range of transport modes.
The overall picture is that the LTBs’ planned spending consists of 59 per cent for road building and 26 per cent for public transport and sustainable travel. Bus projects make up 7 per cent of the total and cycling is not included in any priority schemes.
CBT claims the UK is one of the most car-dependent countries in Europe and that the LTB plans will “lock us into car dependency for the foreseeable future, whereas the development of new housing and employment sites offers the potential to secure a step change in public transport services... such that new road-building is not needed”.
The organisation claims new roads generate more traffic, as people seek work further afield, and that public transport, walking, cycling, smart ticketing and good travel information can cut traffic.
North Yorkshire LTB scored highest in the North West and Yorkshire and Humber, its rail improvements plans and transparent website giving it 23 points. LTB Cheshire and Warrington (CWLTB) rated only nine points whilst the TFL scheme scored five.
A CBT spokesperson said: “Our main concern in the CWLTB plans is the Woodford- Poynton relief road, which is part of the same set of schemes as the hugely destructive Manchester Airport relief road. The Congleton Northern Link Road and the Middlewich Eastern Bypass projects are also associated with large greenfield developments that are likely to increase car dependency.
“The Preston City Deal is all new roads, none of which incorporate cycling or public transport provisions such as bus lanes.”
No one from CWLTB was willing to answer questions on their plans.
John Fillis, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for highways and transport, defended the TFL plans in Preston and said: “We are also working on four other schemes in Lancashire and two have significant investments in the rail and tram network around Blackpool/Fleetwood and in the Blackburn and Bolton area.
“We are also proposing improvements to the main railway stations, bus corridors and dedicated space for public transport once the new distributor roads are open... The masterplan, for which we are holding public consultations, establishes the principle of a strategic cycle network across East Lancashire.”