BUSINESS expansion in Blackpool is being put at risk by a rush-hour nightmare.
As this aerial picture shows, from 4.30pm every weekday, queues start forming a long trail through Blackpool Business Park.
And bosses on the park say the gridlock is damaging business and is a threat to their expansion without council help in alleviating it.
Andy Turner, managing director of the Chorley group which owns four motor dealership franchises on the park, said: “I’ve started to question, when I’ve made big investments in neighbouring towns, why I ever went into Blackpool when it would appear we’ve got to stop investing because the road network can’t accommodate the additional traffic. From a business perspective, our group is growing and investing massively.
“In Wigan, in conjunction with a new road being developed down the side of our garage, we’re trebling the size of the business.
“I’m not ever going to do that in Blackpool.
“We’re a fairly big employer in the resort but we won’t be getting any bigger.”
Many businesses say having just one way in and out of the park – via Squires Gate Lane – is not enough with the amount of traffic which uses the offices, industrial premises, retail outlets and Morrisons supermarket.
Chorley Group operates Fiat, Hyundai, Kia and Nissan dealerships on Amy Johnson. The queues present further problems at the dealerships according to Mr Turner, who timed his exit and petrol station stop – over a distance of around 200m – at one hour 15 minutes one night last week.
He is so frustrated he chartered a private plane to take The Gazette, based in nearby Avroe Crescent, up to see the scale of the problems from the air.
Come 5pm, roads were jammed with traffic as cars sat bumper to bumper trying to get out on to Squires Gate Lane
Mr Turner added: “Cars cut across my forecourt on their way out which is dangerous – we have to block it off sometimes as it isn’t safe. I met a customer the other week at 4.15pm for a test drive and we could only stay on the estate. It’s at the point that I won’t go to the garage now after 4.30pm.
“This happened in Lancaster with a garage where there was a huge bottleneck and I had to close it down.”
Lee Smith, area network manager at the Plumb Centre on Canberra Court, agreed something needed to be done.
He said: “The congestion affects our business because it deters customers from visiting us after about 4.30pm. They know the traffic will be so bad they will get stuck in it.
“If we close at 5pm, we get caught up in the queues and it can take 20 minutes just to reach the traffic lights.”
Andy Lawrenson, of Encore Advertising and Design, on Amy Johnson Way, said: “I can leave here at 5.30pm and be sat in traffic for 20 minutes before getting to the traffic lights.
“I think we do need another exit. If the council could put a link road in between the back of the business park and the corner of Common Edge Road and Queensway, that would be ideal.”
The business park – to the rear of the retail park where Currys, Halfords, Comet, Staples, and Dunelm Mill are set to be joined by a new Argos later this month – plays host to around 100 businesses with around 2,000 employees.
The park opened in the latter half of the 1990s and proved such a hit it has been expanding ever since.
There is a further exit point from the retail park through to the Squires Gate industrial estate, but it is privately owned with no access granted, and there is private land between the park and Common Edge Road at the other end of the site.
Blackpool Council says its hands are tied as land around the park was privately owned.
Coun Fred Jackson (pictured), cabinet member for streets and transport said: “The park is hugely successful both for retail and commercial businesses which can only be a positive in the current climate.
“However this can lead to congestion around the park at rush hour, like in any town or city. We have already done a lot of work to help ease the traffic around the area, including the widening of Squires Gate Lane to allow more traffic through.
“We are restricted however as the land surrounding Amy Johnson Way is privately owned, meaning that building an extra access road is not a simple fix.
“We are happy to discuss this issue with business owners and look into any other suggestions that would help to ease their traffic problems.”