A local road campaign has become front page news with concerns about air pollution near schools and rumours of Camelot in its path.
Paul from the Stop Almond Brook Link Road campaign writes for us about the campaign and a crucial planning decision coming up in June.
No money for road-building? Don't worry, you can let a housing developer pay for it. Oh, and that has the added benefit of it only needing normal, run-of-the-mill planning permission so many local people won’t even know about it before it is passed.
That was the position we found ourselves in when Wigan Council wanted a shiny, new £5m link road cutting across countryside in the village of Standish.
A planning inspector told the council it had to build 1,000 homes in the village. The council hastily compiled a report detailing road measures to facilitate that.
Despite the transport modelling being flawed, Wigan Council’s Cabinet passed the link road without consultation. No time to consult, they said, we have to crack on. Two developers were therefore forced to include the link road in their housing plans.
Local people established Stop Almond Brook Link Road asking that any roads should be cul-de-sacs to prevent through traffic from the M6 and requesting a public meeting about the plan. No, said Wigan Council, it's not OUR road, it's the developers', you’ll get a say when the plans are submitted.
We contacted Wigan MP Lisa Nandy who said she was "deeply concerned" about the lack of consultation and our local democratic bodies, Standish Community Forum and Shevington Parish Council, unanimously opposed the road, which is partly on council-owned land.
This road – wide enough to carry HGVs taking a short cut from the M6 to Chorley – will run metres away from playing fields at our local high school and Wigan’s top asthma consultant wrote to the council expressing concerns about the route due to the potential harm to children's health. Still the council refused a public meeting and only reluctantly engaged with us through Questions To Cabinet on its website.
Our campaign gathered pace, with individuals looking at health and road safety (the road will cut across footpaths which now take people unhindered to the school and village centre, and the road leads off an existing AQMA), ecology (we have orchids, bats and toads, but the great crested newts seem to have disappeared…), communications (we have a website, Facebook account and tweet) and dealing with the press (me).
We’d been in the local paper, including on the front page with the doctor's concerns, but coverage went to a different level when we discovered a respected historian had identified part of the route as a possible Celtic site of national importance. He jokily speculated the site may be linked to references to King Arthur in our area – and the local paper ran with it.
Within days, the nationals picked it up and interpreted the story to say "Camelot had been found in Wigan" and our group was on local radio, regional TV. I was even interviewed on Chris Evans's Radio 1 breakfast show.
Now the road plan is in for planning permission and we have been given just four weeks to respond. We've asked local MP Lisa Nandy to help have it 'called-in' for a public inquiry and we’ve complained to the local authority ombudsman about the lack of consultation and the flawed traffic modelling, and are lobbying everyone we can.
Now we need a white knight to come along and save the day . . .
A guest post by Paul Ogden, press officer, Stop Almond Brook Link Road
To find out more about the campaign and how people in the area around Wigan can object to the road's planning application, see: