Rainford Action Group has learnt the £7m scheme to ease traffic congestion at the Windle Island Junction on the A580 East Lancashire Road was put together using figures that are already at least three years out of date.
Work at Windle Island is due to start this month and will cause significant disruption and delays along the Rainford by-pass and into Windle towards St Helens town centre. The work is expected to last 18 months, meaning drivers face long delays well into 2019.
Rainford Action Group say any improvements will be overwhelmed by the thousands of extra vehicles that would need to use the junction if the council’s housing and warehousing plans are approved.
The campaign group asked St Helens Council in a Freedom of Information Request if the new housing and warehousing developments had been factored into 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 “short-sighted decision” means St Helens drivers could face months of delays for no benefit at all.
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 2,500 extra houses in Eccleston, close to Windle Island. That would increase the local population there by more than 50 percent and have a huge impact at Windle Island junction.
The council has already approved plans to build a giant warehouse on green belt land on the A580 in Haydock and another huge warehouse looks set to be built by controversial property firm Peel Holdings on green belt land next to Haydock racecourse. These developments would add hundreds of extra vehicles to the existing traffic already using Windle Island but haven’t been factored into the Windle Island scheme either.
James Wright, chair of Rainford Action Group, said: “We were astonished to learn St Helens Council hadn’t factored its planned housing and warehousing developments, and the already approved warehouse in Haydock, into their Windle Island traffic congestion scheme.
James Wright said: “Rainford is a rural village. Building large housing developments in communities where there is poor transport links makes no sense, especially as the developments would have such a negative impact on traffic congestion, road safety and air pollution.
“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.
The council’s business case for the work at Windle Island junction is outlined in a report called the Improvements to Windle Island Scheme – Economic Impact Assessment. It was produced three years ago by consultants Mott MacDonald.
A Freedom of Information Request showed the firm has been paid £478,667 by St Helens Council since 2012. That includes a huge payment of £212,120 in 2014, the year the Windle Island report was written.
James Wright said: “The expensive work carried out for St Helens Council by these consultants shows in black and white that the borough’s population has fallen and seen a long-term decline.