Lancashire County Council’s leadership has outlined plans in place to protect and improve Preston’s Guild Wheel.
The Guild Wheel is central to the county council’s plans to increase opportunities for people to cycle and walk for commuting and leisure as the local economy continues to grow.
The Guild Wheel has become very popular since its launch in 2012, having been developed thanks to £2.7m investment from numerous public and private partners, including nearly £2m from Lancashire County Council.
Responding to concerns that the 21-mile orbital route around the city could be undermined as nearby sites which are allocated for new housing are developed, County Councillor Jenny Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “We’re very proud of the success of the Guild Wheel, and the way it has been embraced by people of all ages as an opportunity to enjoy cycling and walking in a safe environment.
“In the short time since the Guild Wheel opened, we have worked alongside partners including Preston City Council and the Guild Wheel Users Group to maintain and improve the route and the links to it, to encourage more people to use it.
“That is set to continue as Preston develops, and the Guild Wheel is central to our future plans. Our intention is to secure funding to improve and create routes from areas where new housing and business sites are being developed which link into the Guild Wheel to, in effect, make a number of ‘spokes’ into the existing wheel.
“This is already underway with proposals being developed through the Preston and South Ribble City Deal to improve links into the Guild Wheel from Cottam and Preston city centre, and resurface part of the existing route which is currently unsurfaced.
“The county council is keenly aware of the need to upgrade transport networks as the central Lancashire area develops, and our transport masterplan published in 2013 provides a basis for this by setting out how we will work with district councils and developers to deliver these improvements.”
County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “There will be extra traffic on some quiet roads in the short term while new housing and supporting infrastructure such as highway and utility upgrades is being constructed. But in the longer term when work is finished we’re planning for these roads to become as quiet as they were before.
“While construction takes place we’re recommending measures to ensure safety is not compromised and is controlled through the developer satisfying requirements of planning conditions attached to any permission granted. In the longer term we propose to use funding provided by developers to improve existing cycling and walking facilities so that the end result is an improvement on what we have at the moment.”
One of the locations where concerns have been raised about the Guild Wheel is D’urton Lane, which forms part of the route, and where a nearby site has been allocated for new housing.
In response to a recent planning application to Preston City Council from a housing developer, Lancashire County Council recommended a number of measures to manage traffic during the construction period, should planning permission be granted. This includes large construction vehicles being escorted whilst on D’urton Lane, and that escort vehicles are fitted with CCTV to monitor journeys.
Further recommendations would see new traffic calming being delivered on D’urton Lane as part of the development to improve safety in the longer term. Separate proposals for the Broughton Bypass which is due to be delivered within the next 18 months will ensure that D’urton Lane remains a quiet lane as a result of being closed to vehicles at its eastern end. This will remove traffic which currently uses D’urton Lane as a ‘rat-run’ to access the motorway junction at Broughton.
Nearby, the A6 between Broughton village and the Broughton roundabout, which also forms part of the Guild Wheel, will become much quieter once the bypass is built, and improvements will be made to improve cycling and pedestrian facilities.
Similar proposals are being developed to manage the possible impact on the Guild Wheel of future development in areas of North West Preston.
While most of the Guild Wheel is traffic-free, parts of it share quiet lanes with other road traffic or run on separate shared-use cycle lanes alongside busier roads. An online petition has highlighted concerns that increases in traffic as development takes place could make these roads busier and less safe for people using the Guild Wheel.
County Councillor Fillis added: “Growth and development will inevitably mean changes, including short-term impacts on many aspects of our daily life, but will also bring benefits in terms of much-needed housing, new jobs, and the opportunity to live in better-connected communities.
“Encouraging more people to cycle and use sustainable transport is a vital part of this, and it is our firm intention to take this opportunity to improve our cycling networks, including the Guild Wheel, to make cycling a more attractive option.
“The county council has a responsibility to safely accommodate and manage all modes of transport on public roads, and I would like to assure people that this will continue to be a priority, whether it be on the lanes on which the Guild Wheel runs, in other parts of Preston, or elsewhere in Lancashire.”