Leyland town centre improvements pushed back further

Part of Hough Lane which has been refurbished in recent years, and below, part of the high street still in need of some works
Part of Hough Lane which has been refurbished in recent years, and below, part of the high street still in need of some works

Leyland town centre is not likely to see any more money spent on improvement works for another few years.

Plans by South Ribble Council to regenerate the area with a town square outside the United Reformed Church and upgrade the pavements have taken a back seat.

Hough Lane, Leyland

Hough Lane, Leyland

Last year, the council said it planned to fork out £290,000 on Leyland town centre improvements in 2014/15, but this work has been pushed back to next year.

Council leader Margaret Smith said this was because the work needed to be ‘phased’ and other areas of South Ribble needed more urgent attention.

And now, it looks like the scheme could be pushed back even further.

Longton is the only parish to receive a major cash boost this financial year, with £90,000 being set aside for village improvements.

But the borough’s Labour leader has accused the Tory-lead council of cherry-picking the parts of South Ribble where they are likely to get the most votes in May’s elections.

Coun Matthew Tomlinson, who is also Leyland’s county councillor, said: “The Conservatives are spending money in Conservative areas, so there’s nothing for Leyland, Bamber Bridge or Penwortham coming up, which are areas that consistently vote Labour.

“There should have been money for Leyland this year but it’s been pushed back – that’s not surprising in an election year.

“Longton has a lovely village centre already.

“I’m not saying it won’t benefit from the work, but there are more important places to spend the money.

“Leyland is much busier than Longton, but only half of Hough Lane’s footpaths have been done.

“The paths need finishing – they’ve just been abandoned half way through.”

He added: “I’d like to see the town square plans revived as well. That was supposed to be for community events.”

The council’s Leyland Neighbourhood Forum has also agreed much-needed work to tackle speeding and traffic issues on Hough Lane should be looked at – but only once regeneration plans are in place.

Coun Smith said plans haven’t been pushed back for political reasons, insisting Leyland’s delay is the result of a knock-on effect from other areas taking longer to develop than expected.

“I have to disagree with what Matthew has said,” she responded.

“If we go back to when Labour was in charge at South Ribble, they had a masterplan for Leyland and they did nothing with it – it just sat there.

“When we took control, the first thing I said was that Leyland needs attention.

“It’s the centre of the borough and it took quite a while to reorganise the masterplan.

“But after that we turned our attention to Lostock Hall and Higher Walton, and next on the list was Longton.

“But Longton has so many components to it, and things like this can take forever.

“Penwortham was on the agenda for last year too, but that was tied up with the plans for Sainsbury’s to move to the area.

“The Cop Lane junction needs work doing to it, and the money from Sainsbury’s was due to be spent all at once with the council funding.

“But the plans fell through and it left us out in the cold.

“Now Penwortham is being worked up as a new scheme and we’ve turned our attention to Longton.

“Bamber Bridge is next, so everything has been pushed back. Nobody is to blame, it’s just a case of trying to pull all of these schemes together.

“We’re not just picking areas because of the election – we’re moving on in an ordered fashion.”

February budget revealed Leyland’s funds had been pushed back, but it was stated that £190,000 was expected to help regenerate the town in 2015/16, and a further £100,000 was earmarked for 2016/17.

But Coun Smith says she is unsure if that timescale will still go ahead.

“We’re very keen to get Penwortham and Bamber Bridge sorted first,” she said.

“I don’t know how that will affect Leyland’s plans for next year, but it does need more work and it will get done, when we have the time.”