A planned year-long closure of a key route into and out of Fylde has been postponed after fears it could have prompted severe congestion.
The decision by Lancashire County Council to put back the work on a bridge at Peel Road - which connects Lytham to the M55 via Ballam Road - comes following pressure from Fylde MP Mark Menzies and amid growing anticipation that work will start next year on the vital M55 link road from Ansdell to Peel.
Mr Menzies wrote to Lancashire County Council earlier this year to ask the closure of Peel Road be put back until after the M55 link road is completed.
Peel Road was set to be closed from early April for a bridge replacement scheme, over a small culvert but after the approaches from the MP, the County Council’s head of highways has confirmed a postponement until “we have a clearer plan regarding the M55 link road works”.
The MP said in the letter to County Hall: “Work to repair this road is most welcome – but I write to request that it be delayed until such a time the new M55 link road is opened.
“At present, due to the prolonged closure of North Houses Lane, traffic from Lytham is forced through St Annes to use Queensway, or through Lytham to use Peel Road, to get to the M55 and vice versa.
“Both routes are incredibly congested, with drivers facing delays of more than an hour on busy days on Queensway, and long delays on Peel Road.”
“My concern is that the closure of Peel Road now will lead to even further traffic chaos on Queensway.
“This would be seriously damaging to the economy of the local area. Visitors who struggle to get into Lytham and St Annes, or who struggle to leave, will not return.
“Residents, already incredibly frustrated by the loss of North Houses Lane, are incredulous at the proposed closure of Peel Road.
“I would ask that the county’s most welcome repairs to Peel Road are put back until such a time the new M55 link road is opened.”
After a further approach from Mr Menzies, Phil Durnell, the County Council’s head of highways, confirmed to him: “Officers also shared your concerns and while the Peel Road Bridge repair works were in the capital programme for the current financial year, it has been determined that they were not going to be an immediate reality due to the impact to the highway network which you have detailed in your letter.
“While the works are needed, engineers will be monitoring the condition of the bridge and plan to schedule the works once we have clearer plan regarding the M55 link road works.
“Please be assured we are committed to co-ordinating works in the area to minimise disruption to the highway network.”
Meanwhile, Mr Menzies has welcomed the latest step towards work starting next year on the long-awaited link road.
Following the latest meeting of the road’s working group, including members of Fylde and Lancashire County Councils, the MP said: “I’m really pleased with the progress made since the Conservatives took control at County Hall.
“We have seen real progression in the past few months and a concerted effort to get this road built.
“We are just waiting to hear back from the last two funding bids which we have been assured are looking successful, and we are now looking at actual plans for the road.
“Next year, we will finally see workmen and diggers on the site and the road will be built.
“It has been enormously complex, with funding secured from the Growth Fund, Fylde and Lancashire County councils, Kensington Developments, the National Productivity Investment Fund, the Highways Agency and other agencies.
“The winning bidder to build the road will be announced early next year, and the work will follow.
“I still will not rest until I see workmen building that road.
“It is vital for residents so they can get to and from work easily, and tourists who bring money into the area.”
The postponement of the Peel Road work and the progress on the link road have both been welcomed by the Lytham Business Partnership traders’ organisation.
Chairman Denize Ashton said: “Lytham business appreciates any moves or plans that least disrupt links to the area.
“Although more and more residents are shopping local to support their own local economy, it’s not enough and most business relies on the year-round visitor population.
“If these numbers were to reduce, it would be disastrous for some.”