The Mersey Gateway Project

First phase applications submitted today for Mersey Gateway Project

March 31, 2008adminNews

The first phase of formal applications for the Mersey Gateway Project is to be submitted today.

The Mersey Gateway Project is submitting two planning applications outlining major alterations to the road network in Runcorn and Widnes and an application for listed building consent to change the traffic flow and road layout on the Silver Jubilee Bridge once the Mersey Gateway bridge has been built.

The applications are being submitted to Halton Borough Council as part of the plan to build a major new bridge over the River Mersey between Runcorn and Widnes.

The permissions being applied for today do not relate to physical works for the proposed new bridge, the main tolling plaza and its immediate approach roads between Astmoor and the proposed new Ditton junction. Also, the associated powers to charge tolls or undertake compulsory purchase activity do not form part of these applications.

These powers all require approval from central government and Halton Borough Council will be applying for the relevant permissions as phase two of the submission in May.

Full details of the later applications will be published at the time and there will be a number of opportunities for any interested parties to visit exhibitions and comment on the proposals. All businesses along the route who are directly affected by any of the proposals will be contacted by letter.

David Parr, Chief Executive of Halton Borough Council, said: “This is one of the most ambitious projects being undertaken anywhere in the UK and one that will have a major economic impact here in Halton. We’ve heard what local people and other stakeholders have said during our ongoing consultation, and I think the plans we are submitting today for the Silver Jubilee Bridge are very exciting – they show a vision of how it could be turned into a real link between local communities in Runcorn and Widnes once the new bridge is open.”

Steve Nicholson, Mersey Gateway Project Director, said: “Today’s submissions demonstrate we are on course to deliver the Mersey Gateway project by 2014. The first phase applications are about the existing bridge and other road links, not the new crossing, but they are crucial to allow the whole project to succeed. At the moment commuters, businesses and local people are all suffering as a result of the delays on the Silver Jubilee Bridge and we need to take action now otherwise this problem will simply get worse. What we are proposing today will also give the Silver Jubilee Bridge a new lease of life and make it an enjoyable experience for cyclists and pedestrians.”

Details of the applications:

1. Planning application for proposed works between the Central Expressway and M56 Junction 12

As the A533 Central Expressway will become the main link between the M56 junction 12 and the new bridge, the project is seeking to change it by modifying existing junctions and creating new distributor lanes running alongside the existing road. This will ensure a regular traffic flow and minimise cross lane movement caused by traffic entering and leaving the main road. The proposals include:

  • changing the north and southbound hard shoulders at Halton Lea and Halton Brow to new distributor lanes running alongside the Central Expressway. These will connect with the main highway at the Bridgewater and Lodge Lane junctions
  • introducing a noise mitigation and landscaping scheme either side of the route; and
  • altering pedestrian bridges to maintain access between local communities and shopping facilities at Halton Lea.

The road network between the Central Expressway and M56 junction 12 will also be altered to change the priority flow of traffic from the motorway along Weston Link and up the Central Expressway towards the new bridge. As part of this, the roundabout connecting traffic on to the M56 will become a signal controlled junction with priority for the main flow of traffic.

As these improvements will need to be put in place before the new bridge opens, it is expected that work would start at the same time as the construction of the new bridge in around 2011.

There is no new junction 11A on the M56 included in this application, though it is possible that a future application could be submitted.

2. Planning application for proposed works between Ditton roundabout and the Silver Jubilee Bridge (SJB)

The road links accessing the SJB from the north of the river will be substantially modified to direct through traffic towards the new crossing. Most of this will be covered by the May submissions, but the proposals submitted today do include:

  • providing toll booths for the SJB on the A533 Queensway in Widnes; and
  • reducing the A533 Queensway between the SJB and the tolling booths to a single lane in each direction so it fits with the new look SJB.

3. Listed Building Consent application for the Silver Jubilee Bridge (SJB)

The plans for the SJB would mean major improvements for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists and improve the connection between Runcorn and Widnes. It would mean:

  • a single lane of traffic in each direction
  • traffic lanes widened by 20% to improve safety; and
  • dedicated pedestrian and cycle routes separated from the main traffic.

The SJB would need to be closed (except for pedestrian access) while this work is carried out. This work would only take place after the proposed new bridge is open and fully operational. It is estimated that there would be an 80% reduction in vehicles crossing the SJB once the new bridge is open, bringing it back to its original use as a local bridge connecting the two town centres. Aside from the road layout, the historic structure of the landmark SJB will not be altered.

Supporting Documentation

A series of detailed supporting documents that relate to the project as a whole are being lodged alongside the planning applications are. These are:

  • an Environmental Statement – looking at the environmental impact of the whole project and detailing any activities the Mersey Gateway team is proposing to  mitigate it
  • a Design and Access Statement – looking at how the design and details proposed for the project fit in to the local environment
  • a Statement of Community Involvement – explaining how Halton Borough Council has consulted with stakeholders throughout the project; and
  • a Planning Statement – an explanation of how the scheme fits with local, regional and national planning and regeneration policies.

What happens next?

All businesses along the route who are directly affected by any of the proposals will be contacted by letter. Anybody who wants to comment on any aspect of these proposals can do so by contacting Halton Borough Council in writing. Full details of the applications and the process for commenting on the proposals can be found on the Mersey Gateway website – and there will be further information at each of the Halton Direct Links throughout the borough.

A decision is expected from the Council?s planning committee during the summer. However, due to the size and complexity of the project, it is almost inevitable that there will be a public inquiry. This is likely to begin towards the end of 2008. If everything is approved, the new bridge is expected to be open in 2014.

Halton Borough Council Mersey Link

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Mersey Gateway Project