A raft of changes have been approved – some of which have been designed specifically to prevent or deter rat-running
A view of Corporation Street in Preston
A stretch of one of the busiest roads in Preston is to be turned into a bus-only zone – with new one-way systems and speed bumps introduced nearby to stop car drivers taking unsuitable shorcuts to get around it.
A so-called “bus gate” will be established on Corporation Street between its junction with Marsh Lane and Heatley Street. The full length of that route – which runs from the Adelphi roundabout to Ringway – is often the scene of standing or slow-moving traffic, particularly at peak times.
It has now also become the only option for buses that previously used Friargate to head in and out of the city centre after the closure of part of the northern section of that road as part of work to turn it into an area reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. It was revealed in 2021 that the wider scheme to revamp the Friargate and Ringway area and encourage more people to walk, cycle or take public transport into town would ultimately lead to the closure of a section of Corporation Street to cars and most other vehicles.
READ MORE: Nicola Bulley friends ask to ‘turn Facebook yellow’ as search for missing mum continues
Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has now given the green light to the move, which will mean a major change to the traffic flow on the outskirts of the city centre. As well as buses, only Hackney taxis and pedal bikes will be able to access the new restricted area, which it has previously been announced will be monitored by CCTV cameras to catch anyone breaking the rules.
A raft of changes to other roads in the vicinity have also been approved – some of which have been designed specifically to prevent or deter rat-running to bypass the new bus lane.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands that the intention is to funnel all Ringway-bound traffic approaching from the north of the city onto either Strand Road or the A6, North Road, and ensure that motorists displaced from their usual route on Corporation Street – whichever direction they are heading in – do not flood more minor roads with a volume of vehicles with which they would be unable to cope.
Traffic modelling has indicated that around 400 motorists per hour would opt to use currently available north-south rat runs, prompting highways bosses to move to cut off the cut-throughs – or at least make them less attractive. Key to achieving that will be the introduction of a series of one-way systems on roads in the vicinity of Corporation Street. They include a short one-way stretch northbound on Leighton Street between Maudland Road and Pedder Street, which will mean southbound traffic searching for a route through to Ringway will no longer be able to turn right out of Pedder Street to head through the university quarter.
Bowran Street and Mount Pleasant will also be turned into one-way routes – in a southbound direction – to stop drivers heading north towards the university still being able to use the two stretches of Corporation Street either side of the bus gate by taking a short detour via Heatley Street and Marsh Lane.
Plans to introduce a short one-way restriction on Heatley Street itself – in order to prevent Ladywell Street beyond it being used as a similar northbound rat run to avoid the bus lane cameras – have been dropped after public opposition expressed during a consultation. Instead, Ladywell Street itself will be made one way for part of its length southbound in order to achieve the same objective, but that plan will be subject to a fresh survey of public opinion.
Speed bumps will also be installed on the minor routes of Ashton Street and Wellfield Road – which form a north-south link between Fylde Road and Ringway – and could also therefore be used by drivers seeking a shortcut around the new bus-only section of Corporation Street.
In a report to cabinet members, County Hall highways officials warned that Ashton Street and large sections of Wellfield Road are residential and that “any significant increase in traffic should be discouraged”.
“Their relatively straight and long nature could also encourage excessive speed,” the document added.
The section of Marsh Lane between Corporation Street and Friaragte will see its existing one-way system reversed so that it runs from the former to the latter, giving prohibited traffic confronted with the bus gate ahead the option to turn off Corporation Street and travel back in the direction of the Adelphi roundabout.
Meanwhile, the entire area north of Ringway will become a 20-miles-per hour zone in order to support the wider aim of encouraging increased “active travel” – on two wheels or two feet – into the city centre.
The reduced speed limit will apply across a patch bound by Ladywell Street to the west, Friargate to the east, Ringway to the south and Edward Street to the north. Coupled with the existing 20mph maximum speed within the university quarter, that will create what highways officers have described as “an expanded low-speed neighbourhood” which will improve the safety of the pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
The scheme will also include the relaxation of one restriction – the no right turn out of the Aldi retail park on Corporation Street will be scrapped because of the anticipated fall in the level of traffic using the route.
Cabinet member for highways and transport Rupert Swarbrick told the meeting at which the suite of changes were approved that they had been the subject of “extensive consultation”.
“[That] revealed some issues that we’ve been able to make some accommodations to reflect,” he told colleagues, adding that the positives of what was being proposed “outweigh the negatives”.
A total of 65 responses were received as part of the public consultation, with objections being lodged to the bus gate itself and the associated one-way systems, the speed bumps on Ashton Street and Wellfield Road and the changes to Friargate. Several of the comments came from businesses concerned over access to premises, but the county council says that all properties will remain accessible, albeit that there will be “reduced flexibility” in the direction of approach and exit in some cases.
No date has been confirmed for when the bus gate and the related new restrictions will come into force, but the LDRS understands that they will not be implemented until the overarching Friargate and Ringway work has been completed. Previously, the county council has advised that April 2023 would be the earliest possible start date.
The authority’s leader, Phillippa Williamson, commented that traffic in the area was already “running better than it was” as the widespread works across several locations on the edge of the city centre enter their final stages.
In a statement after the meeting, County Cllr Swarbrick added: “Preston is going through an exciting change and these proposed measures are a vital cog in the machine we are building.
“In conjunction with the major construction works we are undertaking, these proposals will fundamentally change the way we travel in and around Preston city centre.
“Thank you everyone who took the time to look at the proposals and give feedback. All of the responses have been considered and cabinet colleagues have agreed to move forward with these plans to bring Preston in line with other major cities in the North.”
What’s the future for Friargate?
The Corporation Street changes are part of work to better connect Preston’s university quarter with the city centre – and make walking and cycling between the two a more attractive prospect.
One of the main elements of that £14.7m scheme – paid for with cash secured from the government’s Transforming Cities Fund – is the pedestrianisation of a stretch of Friargate, to the north of Ringway, and an overhaul of the junction between the two.
A shared space-style environment will be created – similar to that on Fishergate – with no kerbsides and zones for pedestrians and vehicles instead being indicated by changes in paving type.
The county council says that “significant widening” of the corridor in front of the shops on Friargate will create space for “outdoor seating and leisure”.The remaining central strip, to be used by cycles and the few vehicles with access to the route, will be much narrower than the previous highway as a result.
A segregated cycle lane on Ringway – which has been taking shape in recent months – forms another key part of the revamp.
Although the plans were publicised and consulted upon before the works began back in November 2021, the decision last week by Lancashire County Council’s cabinet to approve the regulations to implement them has revealed the full details of how the roads will soon operate in the area.
- All traffic except cycles will be prohibited from the northern section of Friargate between Union Street and Ringway.
- All traffic except cycles will also be prohibited from Friargate between Union Street and Marsh Lane, except during limited business “servicing hours” between 6am and 10am.
- The same restrictions on all traffic outside servicing hours, except cycles, will apply to Union Street, Hill Street and Heatley Street on their approaches to Friargate, beyond the last available turning point.
- The remainder of the very narrow Union Street will be closed to traffic, except for access and cycles, at all times.
- A new pedestrian and cycle crossing will be created at the junction of Friargate and Ringway.
- Waiting and loading will be banned for the full length of Friargate between Ringway and the Adelphi roundabout, except in marked bays – these will be made up of four goods loading bays between Union Street and Edward Street and existing limited waiting bays between Marsh Lane and Walker Street.
- The Union Street and Edward Street bays will operate as taxi ranks from 7pm until 8am, while a new taxi stand will also be introduced on Heatley Street, opposite its junction with Seed Street. Existing parking and loading bays on Fleet Street will be for use by taxis between 8pm and 8am.
- South of Ringway, the section of Friargate between the end of the shop frontages and the dual carriageway will be closed to all traffic except cycles, meaning there will be no access from Friargate onto the A59. That will require the reversal of the existing one-way system on Orchard Street, so that it runs from Friargate to Market Street, in order to maintain access – while the stretch of Friargate between Orchard Street and the point at which the traffic ban begins will become two-way for the same reason.
- 05:05, 13 FEB 2023
- UPDATED08:36, 13 FEB 2023