Lancashire County Council has cut the speed limit on Preston New Road outside Cuadrilla’s fracking site amid concerns about the safety of protesters and motorists.
The move follows a visit to the site by the council’s cabinet member for highways, as well as complaints that the 50mph limit made the road dangerous.
Temporary signs were due to be installed today with an advisory 30mph limit. An enforceable 20mph limit will be introduced outside the site when the signs have been produced.
The cabinet member for highways, Cllr John Fillis, said
“I visited the site last week and it’s clear that reducing the speed limit would help to minimise the risks, and potentially prevent a serious incident. I discussed the situation with the police and protestors, and everyone I spoke with agreed that reducing the speed limit would help to improve safety.
“Initially we will bring in an advisory 30mph limit using temporary signs, but as soon as possible afterwards we will introduce a 20mph limit. We can’t do this immediately as it will take a short while to design a scheme, manufacture the signs, and prepare the legal order needed to change the speed limit and ensure it’s enforceable.
“Road safety is everyone’s responsibility and I would ask people to respect the changes to the speed limit and drive with extra caution in this area.”
The move has been welcomed by opponents of Cuadrilla’s operations. Pam Foster, of Residents Action on Fylde Fracking, said:
“Since work started at the Preston New road site, we have been constantly highlighting the potential for serious accidents to the police. With large wagons continually entering and leaving the site the current 50 mph speed limit is far too dangerous. As the number of wagons will increase substantially over the coming weeks and months, these new traffic measures are to be welcomed for the safety of the public. The new speed limit will also hopefully prevent the police from closing the road unnecessarily and further holding up people on their journeys. While welcoming the new safety measures, the unsuitability and dangers of this road for heavy wagons was made clear at last year’s planning inquiry. Unfortunately, our fears were ignored by the Secretary of State.”
Maureen Mills, of Halsall Against Fracking, said:
“As a result of a much welcome visit to the site by the portfolio holder, Cll John Fillis, for highways, a sensible speed management scheme has been agreed. The actual experience has shown from day one, that creating access to a site and the construction traffic requiring access from a major road such as A583 requires greater consideration than was given in the planning process.”
Claire Stephenson, of Preston New Road Action Group, said:
“We welcome Lancashire County Council finally acting upon the increasing risks on this dangerous stretch of road. The critical road safety issue of the A583 were highlighted continually during the planning process for the Preston New Road site. Our expert witnesses repeatedly voiced their concerns for the road safety black spot and historic record of accidents. Since Cuadrilla have arrived in our community, we have seen nothing but dangerous actions, including HGV drivers who have not been briefed correctly, carrying out manoeuvres that jeopardise all other road users. Additionally, and unacceptable road closures to facilitate Cuadrilla’s large-scale machinery entering site.”
Lancashire for Shale, a group supporting hydraulic fracturing in the county, said this evening it was disappointed that the council had had to introduce the 20mph speed limit near the site. A spokesperson said:
“Lancashire County Council is right to act, but it is important to remember that this is only necessary because of the behaviour of some anti-fracking protestors that can regularly be seen walking in the road, weaving in and out of traffic and distracting motorists.
“It is worth noting that construction activities further along Preston New Road have not required changes to the speed limit, where Barratt and Story Homes are busy building two large adjacent housing developments. The only real difference there is the absence of protestors.”