Fears that Wigan township road-widening plans will go ahead in the face of local opposition

A main road running through a Wigan township which has seen an "unprecedented" level of housebuilding in recent years could be widened despite local opposition.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 7:25 am
Updated Thursday, 30th September 2021, 7:28 am
School Lane, Standish

Plans to widen School Lane in Standish, using money raised from developers as part of the planning process, were put forward to the public earlier this year.

More than 1,000 people took part in a consultation by Wigan council about several schemes which the £6.6m of Section 106 money could be spent on.

The majority of respondents said they were "unhappy" with the proposal to widen School Lane, with around a third saying they were "completely unhappy."

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Left to right: Unhappy School Lane residents Ian and Julie Parkes, Tim and Janet McAvoy, Audrey Lowe and Eric Lloyd are against the road-widening plan

The local authority is yet to decide whether the scheme will still go ahead.

However, community group Standish Voice fears the council will "bulldoze" through the unpopular plan regardless, claiming it would "ruin" the village.

A spokesperson said: “We know congestion at rush hour is a problem in Standish – the consultation also showed that. But even then, people do not want this scheme as it will eventually make matters worse.

“If this goes ahead, residents will rightly conclude that Wigan council has no regard for democracy or proper public engagement as when they get an answer they do not like, they ride roughshod over it.”

The group has argued that widening School Lane would be a waste of money, encourage more through traffic and facilitate more housebuilding in the area.

Members of the community group have described the consultation results as a "landslide victory" for those who think the scheme would ruin the village – but they fear the council will "blindly impose" the "ill-thought-out plan" regardless.

It comes after a council press release published after the consultation concluded said the scheme received a "mixed response" from the public.

Aidan Thatcher, assistant director for growth and housing at Wigan council said the engagement exercise offers ‘rich local insights’ which will be ‘incredibly useful in guiding the next stage of investment’ in the village.

But he defended the School Lane widening scheme, highlighting its merits.

He said: “Our traffic modelling suggests that School Lane would have a positive, long-term impact on congestion and traffic flow, which we know is a priority for residents.”

He recognised there was support for a pedestrian improvement scheme in Standish – but he said this option has not been tested for highway efficacy.

The proposal includes introducing 20mph speed limits, new crossing points and newly-laid footways on Pole Street, Market Street and Cross Street.

This alternative "people-friendly" plan to improve the village centre was rated as the most important by 29.3 per cent of the respondents – more than any other option – and nearly half said they were "happy" with this suggested scheme.

Conservative councillor Adam Marsh claims the centre of Standish has been "starved" of investment for years, saying many residents support this scheme.

Speaking at a full council meeting last week, he argued that widening School Lane would "completely change" the character of the centre of Standish to its detriment and urged the town hall to "head back to the drawing board."

However, a motion recommending the cabinet does not proceed with the road widening scheme and support the pedestrian improvement proposals instead was voted down with the ruling Labour group refusing to support the motion.

Labour councillor Paul Prescott, who is the portfolio holder for planning, environmental services and transport at Wigan council, explained why.

He said: “We have received a broad spectrum of responses.

“This will be used alongside the highways evidence to ensure that any measures taken in Standish will improve congestion and mitigate the impact of already approved development which, after all, is the very reason that the monies have been collected.

“No decisions have been made at all on the projects that will be moved forward.

“Therefore, to agree a position on School Lane at this point would not be in accordance with the [decision-making] processes.”

Coun Prescott said a decision should be made in late autumn, assuring councillors that the process would be ‘transparent’ and ‘accountable’.

Cabinet members abstained, but all other Labour councillors voted against the motion with the Conservative and independent councillors voting in favour.

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