A multimillion pound revamp of one of the busiest traffic junctions in St Helens will be a “total waste of time and money” if St Helens Council’s controversial development plans go ahead.
Rainford Action Group has learnt the £7m scheme to ease traffic congestion at the Windle Island Junction with the A580 East Lancashire Road was put together using figures that are already at least three years out of date and don’t take into account the council’s plans to build thousands of new houses and several giant warehouses near to the junction.
Work at Windle Island is due to start in September after the Liverpool City Region agreed to pay half of the total cost. Construction is expected to last 18 months meaning drivers in St Helens face significant delays until well into 2019.
Rainford Action Group say it will all be for nothing because any improvements will be overwhelmed by the thousands of extra vehicles that would need to use the junction if the housing and warehousing plans are approved.
The campaign group asked St Helens Council in a Freedom of Information Request what provision for the new housing and warehousing developments they had made in the Windle Island scheme.
The council replied that the scheme was based on 2014 figures and there had been no update since the controversial development plans were produced last year.
Rainford Action Group say that means St Helens drivers face months of delays for no benefit.
Since the council came up with the Windle Island scheme three years ago, it has announced plans to allow developers to build at least 1,140 houses on green belt land in Rainford.
The overwhelming majority of vehicles leaving the village do so via Windle Island meaning there could be an extra 2,200 cars using the junction.
The council also wants developers to build 1,300 houses in Eccleston, close to Windle Island. It also wants developers to build more housing in Billinge, Moss Bank and Haydock, close to the East Lancashire Road.
Plus the council has approved plans to build a giant warehouse on green belt land in Haydock and is considering an application to approve a second huge warehouse next to Haydock Race Course.
All these developments would add thousands of vehicles to the existing traffic already using Windle Island.
The council claims the work at Windle Island would create additional traffic capacity. But their plans are based on a report called the Improvements to Windle Island Scheme – Economic Impact Assessment and since that was written in 2014 the St Helens Local Plan has been published. The proposals in the Local Plan have major implications for Windle Island but St Helens Council has ignored that and failed to update its traffic congestion scheme.
Rainford Action Group say the council risks creating gridlock on the borough’s roads, which would deter business investment in St Helens and cause misery for thousands of St Helens residents.
James Wright, chair of Rainford Action Group, said: “We were astonished to learn St Helens Council hadn’t factored these housing and warehousing plans into their Windle Island traffic congestion scheme. St Helens drivers face months of disruption for nothing. The scheme is a total waste of time and money.
“If these developments go ahead, no amount of investment will improve congestion at Windle Island. It will be gridlock at one of the borough’s major junctions and entry points.
“The traffic congestion scheme is out of date before work has even started so all those drivers facing months of delays will be inconvenienced for nothing and taxpayers’ money will be squandered on a scheme that isn’t fit for purpose.”
St Helens Council wants to release land from the green belt in Rainford to allow developers to build at least 1,140 new houses. That would expand the village by a third.
Rainford Action Group says the impact on traffic in the village is one of the main reasons why local people oppose the plan.
James Wright said: “Rainford is a rural village. Building large housing developments in communities where there is poor transport links makes no sense.
“St Helens Council should focus on building new housing on brownfield land close to sustainable transport connections. That would bring genuine benefits to the whole borough.”