Blackpool Promenade will be left exactly as it is and will not be returned to a four lane highway, council chiefs have announced.
The town’s executive committee have rejected options including returning the stretch of highway between North Pier and New Bonny Street to four lanes, and instead agreed to retain the present ‘shared space.’
Councillors said they had taken the potential for congestion, the possible cost and a public consultation into account when coming to the decision.
It comes after The Gazette revealed last week how consultants brought in by Blackpool Council to look into five proposed options for the Prom, including returning it to a four-lane road, considered cost together with road safety and congestion issues – before recommending it should stay as it is.
Manchester-based Ove Arup and Partners said the current layout, which was introduced in 2011 at a cost of £2.5m, may have reduced the number of accidents on the route and “provides a safe and attractive environment”.
It added issues relating to traffic congestion were merely “anecdotal”.
Coun John Jones (pictured top right), cabinet member for highways, proposed last night’s move. It was agreed unanimously by the committee, which was chaired by Coun Fred Jackson in place of council leader Coun Simon Blackburn who was not in attendance.
Coun Jones added that an ongoing trial which has seen traffic signals switched off at two junctions would continue, while work to install a new zebra crossing in front of The Tower will now proceed.
He told the meeting: “We listened to residents and because of the airing of their views, we went out to consultation and came up with the five options, and also had an independent report carried out.
“Around 700 people took part in the public consultation and 92.2 per cent were Blackpool residents.
“The results gave no conclusion that people wanted one option or another.
“Any one of the options would have cost Blackpool people a considerable amount of money and that money would have come out of Project 30, which would mean some areas would have no work done on their roads.
“We thought that would not be wise or in the best interests of the people of those wards.”
Councillors had warned the cost of making any changes to the Prom, which would have been as much as £2.6m to return the road to four lanes, would have come from the Project 30 budget to repair potholes.
After the meeting, Coun Jones said he had also been reluctant to cause more disruption on the Prom while any changes were carried out.
He said: “I think people have had enough disruption in the town. Also, the routes around Talbot Gateway will be up and running again soon and I believe that will help ease congestion.
“The signals at Talbot Square and New Bonny Street junctions with the Prom are still off and we will continue to trial that for some time.
“People who use the Prom a lot are telling me that is working OK.
“People will agree, or not agree, with the decision but we have done a huge amount of work, and taken our time to consider this.”
Conservative group leader Coun Tony Williams (pictured bottom right) said he was not surprised by the decision.
He said: “You cannot hire advice and then not take any notice of it. What we would be looking for is a Promenade by-pass, perhaps using St Annes Road and Central Drive.
“We would have liked to have seen an option that created a better alternative through route, because you cannot accept the traffic jams are ‘anecdotal’ as the report claimed.”
Coun Jones said the council would continue to keep the situation under review.
Experts slammed return to a four-lane Promenade
Consultants Ove Arup and Partners, hired at a cost of close to £6,000, told councillors that returning the Prom to a four lane highway would be a “retrograde step” which would have impacted on pedestrian safety and had only limited impact on traffic.
Councillors opted to look again at the shared space Prom in reaction to a growing number of complaints about congestion following the reduction from four lanes to two and removal of road markings, kerbs and pedestrian barriers in 2011.
But after public consultation, the consultants advised councillors nothing should change.
They claimed a return to four lanes would have been the “least attractive” option. It would not be value for money, would cause “significant detriment the pedestrian environment” and would have “limited benefits to traffic movement,” the firm’s report said.
A public consultation undertaken in May and referred to last night by Coun Jones saw a two day ‘open event’ and 700 replies to an online survey. It found almost 82 per cent of people wanted a good two way traffic flow. But 76 per cent also ranked pedestrian safety as the most important factor about the Prom.