Barrier-lifting given go ahead despite concerns from Wigan councillors
Opposition councillors have reacted with fury after failing in an attempt to delay a decision on a contentious Wigan road link.
Elected members clashed during heated exchanges about proposals to remove a barrier that restricts access to the Martland Mill Business Park.
Labour members of the authority’s regulation committee backed the move that officers said would improve road safety in the Kitt Green and Marsh Green areas.
Tory councillor Ed Houlton had called on the committee to defer its decision until a major motorway link road project is finished to see if that eases congestion.
His proposal was voted down by the committee’s Labour majority with Coun Stephen Murphy calling the barrier ‘stupid’.
Following a site visit on Friday to the location on Walthew House Lane, the committee was told concerns had been raised by local residents about HGV drivers using their streets to reverse once they had reached the barrier.
But others had in turn said the move would add to congestion problems in neighbouring areas.
Outlining his support for the proposal, Labour member for Orrell, Coun Murphy, said: “We live in an area where we cannot control the amount of traffic, I live right on the junction of the motorway.
“Come what may, whatever goes on Walthew House Lane will not stop the traffic coming off that motorway (at the M6/M58 interchange) and making the decision on which route to take because they follow their Sat-Nav come what may.”
He added: “The barrier is totally and utterly stupid, it creates nothing but an obstruction, removing it will give everybody a little easement in different parts of that area by splitting the traffic and letting it take two routes in to the business park.”
Coun Houlton said: “We are, as Coun Murphy has mentioned, doing the M58 link road, which is suggested to alleviate traffic. Surely we should delay this decision and see how the traffic flow is after, when the work has been completed?”
Couns Kath Houlton (Tory) and Paul Maiden (Independent) had earlier highlighted that hundreds of residents had objected to the plans and questioned whether better signs were required on the route approaching the barrier.
The approved proposal will see the council take ownership of a section of unadopted road on Walthew House Lane.
The route was created in 1996 through a planning agreement with bosses at the adjacent Heinz factory.
There will also be a mini-roundabout established at the junction of Spring Road and Prescott Lane, near to the Heinz main entrance.
The council had conducted a public consultation on the plans in 2016.
After the meeting Coun Winstanley said: “It is extremely disappointing but not surprising that Labour councillors have decided to ignore the wishes of residents. It’s not the first time and won’t be the last that they don’t listen to the will of the people.
“It was quite clear that this was a consultation in name only. The majority of people who responded to this consultation were against the barrier being removed and yet our Labour councillors choose to ignore the majority of people. Every letter received from people in the Orrell Ward was against this proposal.
“I am appalled at the way in which the council have handled this matter. It has taken two years since the proposal was first announced and then two years later they finally push it to the committee and try to do it without letting local councillors or residents know.”
In the last five years there have been 26 injury accidents on the Kitt Green residential estate and opening up this link is hoped to improve highway safety.
Mark Tilley, assistant director for infrastructure and regulatory services at Wigan Council, said: “We are responding to concerns from residents and the high number of HGVs which are driven through the area and currently reverse down residential streets. This reserving is a safety concern.
“We have done detailed analysis into the current traffic flow and looked at the impact this will have on the area and strongly believe it is the safest and best option. Like all new schemes we will closely monitor the impact on the roads. The safety of our residents is our number one priority and we must do what we can to improve safety.”