Link road plans stall

Amberswood Common, woodland and cycle path from Liverpool Road to Wigan Road, Hindley
Amberswood Common, woodland and cycle path from Liverpool Road to Wigan Road, Hindley

PLANS for a traffic-easing Wigan link road have stalled over a land row.

The Council wants to build a relief route through Amberswood Common, joining Hindley and Ince in an attempt to remedy congestion on what the Department for Transport recently identified as the borough’s slowest highway.

But a bid to have the common land deregistered, a requirement before works can start, has failed after a government inspector found there was a “potential for there to be a negative effect on the neighbourhood.”

A group opposing the plans – including Hindley’s Coun Jim Ellis – welcomed the report as a significant development, urging the council to rethink its scheme.

But the town hall last night insisted that it did not think the inspector’s decision would be a major setback.

Mike Worden, assistant director for planning and transport, said: “The council made an application to the Planning Inspectorate to provide new common land to replace the land which is required to facilitate the proposed Amberswood Common link road.

“Although it is disappointing that the inspector has said that she does not feel that this can be supported at this stage, she has left the door open for a further application to be made once further work has been done and a planning application submitted.

“We have already undertaken some public consultation on the road scheme and the public will be able to comment further when the planning application is submitted early next year.”

If the area of land to be released is greater than 200m sq, replacement land must be suggested to be granted common land status. The release land is 135,000m sq and the replacement land 197,500m sq, planners state.

Coun Ellis, who represents Wigan Independent Network, said he was not surprised the town hall did not view the decision as a setback. He told the Evening Post: “They’re not going to admit they’ve dropped a clanger.”

Adding: “(The inspector’s) reasons for refusal are interesting and a sad reflection on the council.

“She identified the loss of land available for public access, insufficient information on the effects on nature conservation and the interests of the public and relevant neighbourhoods in relation to public access as key issues for refusal.

“The report also highlighted significant council failings. The failure to produce an environmental impact assessment of the proposed road. A failure to produce any form of assessment in relation to nature conservation and public access. And a failure to produce a mitigation plan together with a management plan.”

He had earlier this year highlighted safety concerns about a hole that had appeared during preliminary work, suggesting the land was not suitable.

The report, from inspector Sue Arnott, concludes: “I consider there is the potential for there to be a negative effect on the neighbourhood and the public interest in relation to access and nature conservation.

“Until that impact is identified and assessed...I consider it would be premature to grant the order (to deregister and exchange the common land.)”

Coun Ellis proposed the route of the disused rail track from Ince through Platt Bridge could be an alternative route. Adding: “Following this refusal now is the time to review what is proposed and look at alternatives.”

• A public meeting will take place to discuss the planning inspector’s decision on Thursday October 1 from 7.30pm at St John Methodist Church, Hindley.