Road to nowhere: Heysham M6 Link

This is a green belt-gobbling road which will encourage more road traffic to Heysham port and nuclear stations.

Proposed HM6L drawn on a google map - copyright google - credits included in image

Update January 2014: After receiving planning permission and final funding approval in the autumn of 2013, construction work on this road is now beginning. Tree removals were set for January 2014, with main works due soon after until late 2015 - follow the work plans on the Lancashire CC project page.

November 2012: New evidence shows that local otter populations are much larger than previously thought. The animals’ habitat is now threatened by the road plans, and the campaigners' work to highlight their plight has been praised by TV conservationist Chris Packham. 

The road would run from junction 34 of the M6 near Lancaster and join the A683 as it runs down to the port of Heysham. The road would also run past the community of Torrisholme on an embankment 8 metres high.

The 4.8km dual carriageway would destroy 70 hectares of green belt, and directly affect two County Biological Heritage Sites - the Lune and the Lancaster Canal. 11km of hedgerows and many veteran trees would also be destroyed.

What is happening:

View of Lancaster, which the HM6L would cut through the middleThe idea of a “bypass” round Lancaster has been around for decades. The western bypass route was rejected by the Government in the 1990s because of its enormous environmental impact (it would have run across the Lune Estuary, a European protected area). Instead, Lancashire County Council is now proposing a northern route, which is also extremely controversial. The justification for the scheme has changed from being a bypass needed on congestion grounds to economic regeneration, job creation and regeneration of the Heysham port.

The Government placed the scheme in its ‘Supported Pool’ in January 2011. This means that the scheme has its funding approved conditionally and it now needs to complete statutory processes, including getting planning permission. It will reach the ‘Full Approval’ stage when the Government is satisfied that the scheme is ready and financially viable.

To reduce costs, the scheme has changed a lot, so the previous planning permission it was given is now defunct and a new one is needed. In November 2011 the scheme became the first road scheme to apply to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). If the IPC accept the application, an Examination is scheduled for 2012.

Significantly, Lancashire County Council earned its promise of some government funding by increasing its own contribution to £12.3 million, and accepting all cost overruns. TSLM has argued that the real cost estimate is at least £17 million more than currently admitted, all of which will end up being paid by the Council.

Why this is a road to nowhere:

TSLM protest agains the HM6L in 2005 The Road fails to tackle local congestion, the most pressing local problem. On some roads, traffic would actually go up on the day the road opened. Its main purpose is to improve HGV access to Heysham Port, yet traffic to Heysham Port currently constitutes less than 3% of traffic crossing the Lune bridges.

Heysham Port handles just 0.7% of the tonnage moved through all UK ports, and is a minor west coast port compared to Liverpool. It will decline further as Liverpool “Super Port” develops.

There is no convincing evidence that the road will regenerate Morecambe or Heysham. The latest Economic Impact Report forecasts only 898 to 1,125 new jobs in the regeneration area, if all available development land is all taken up. But it then admits that up to 1,095 jobs could be lost due to the "2-way road effect" - so no net gain.

The road would pass within 200 metres of 1,074 homes, exposing thousands to exhaust, noise, vibration and light pollution. In Torrisholme, the community would be divided by a dual carriageway embankment. In Halton, the narrow ancient streets would be metres away from motorway access.

Real sustainable alternatives have never been examined. The council presented the already rejected western bypass route as the ‘next best option’, even though the Council itself declared it “unbuildable”.

Local campaigners:

TSLM logoThe scheme is strongly opposed by Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe (TSLM). This group does not advocate other routes for the road, but argue that the transport problems of the area could be solved by more sustainable ways.

Visit their website to find out more:

They say:

"Many years ago, the County Council decided to build a road, and has spent decades trying to justify it. TSLM believes that there is no one solution to our transport problems, but instead a comprehensive package of measures is needed."

Better ideas:

TSLM has worked with other local groups who favour sustainable transport to develop a package of measures, which could include:

Improving cycling infrastructure
Redesigning the Lancaster city centre one-way system
Park and Ride bus services

A high quality spinal bus route between Heysham and Lancaster University, with enhanced feeder routes:

  • dedicated bus lanes and junction priority measures
  • public transport bridge at Luneside.

Rail system upgrades:

  • upgrading the environment at railway stations, with more stations serving residential areas
  • upgrading signalling between Lancaster and Morecambe
  • improving facilities to allow some transfer of port freight from road to rail.

Smaller road improvements

  • particularly to the A683 between Junction 34 of the M6 and Heysham Port
  • with alternative measures reducing local traffic, the A683 could be improved or widened to ease access to the port.

These proposals have been costed at £30 to £40 million, saving up to £100 million compared with the cost of the Link Road.

For a detailed description and costing of these alternative solutions, see the James Report:

More details:

Promoted by: Lancashire County Council
Total cost: £123.3 million
Length: 4.8 km
Cost per metre: £25,677
Amount requested from the government: £110.9 million
Local authority contribution: £12.3 million
Full details from the local authority:

Related news:

Last updated: 22 January 2014
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