Is this Lancashire's top crime hotspot?

The underpass
The underpass

Alarming figures have identified a Leyland underpass as a crime and anti-social behaviour horror hotspot.

Alarming figures have identified a Leyland underpass as a crime and anti-social behaviour horror hotspot.

Councillor Ken Jones at the underpass

Councillor Ken Jones at the underpass

A shocking 500-plus incidents at the area have been recorded by police in just the last five years.

In the last year alone there have been 167.

Now the question is being asked - is this the worst crime and anti-social blackspot in the whole of Lancashire - if not beyond?

The blackspot is the M6 underpass on Moss Lane at Farington Moss.

Youths congregate in the underpass

Youths congregate in the underpass

It has already been described as a “subway from hell”.

In January, a man in his 50s was knocked unconscious, stamped on and left on the ground while walking home.

Less than 18 months ago, a serious jewellery robbery took place there when a 28-year-old walking her dog received stab threats after being approached by three men.

Parents with young children say they are having to brave what they dubbed the ‘subway from hell’ to reach St Catherine’s RC Primary School.

The front of the underpass

The front of the underpass

The community is fearful of young people who congregate there undercover of darkness and vegetation.

Now new measures such as improving visibility, police patrols and CCTV look set to be implemented.

Ward councillor Ken Jones said: “We have a serious problem at the motorway end of Moss Lane particularly relating to the underpass and the former convent property which is boarded up and waiting development.

“It’s used by ne’er do wells even drug dealers. It is a matter of grave concern for Sue (wife and councillor) and myself.”

He said they had attended multi-agency approach meetings on the issue involving South Ribble and Chorley borough councils, Lancashire County Council, Highways England and the police.

“This group have led to the formation of a plan which will involve installing CCTV covering both approaches to the underpass. We have also asked for Chorley Council and South Ribble Council to make major improvements to the foliage and general appearance of the approaches to both sides of the underpass to improve visibility and give fewer places to hide.

“Lancashire County Council are looking at resurfacing the approaches to the tunnel and they are also looking at improving the lighting to each approach.

“The whole scheme is going to cost in the region of £50,000 and we have feelers out to various possible sources.”

He said considering all those involved, £50,000 “is not an impossible amount of money”.

He added; “This is a very important matter.

“St Catherine’s Primary School is very concerned about the break-ins into the old boarded up convent and we are having discussions with the developer who owns the convent. We are trying to set up a meeting.

“The latest we’ve heard is he is finalising his finances and will proceed to develop the convent into a home for retirees.”

He continued: “There is broad agreement across the agencies that this is the right path to take.

“It is not a magic bullet that will clear up all the problems in that area - but it is a step in the right direction.

“CCTV will be monitored from the existing control room in Chorley.”

He said he agreed the incident statistics were alarming but that they had to be taken in context.

He said though: “There was a serious physical assault which nearly cost a resident his life.”

Carloline Moon, deputy leader of South Ribble Council and cabinet member for community safety, said she had not seen the incident statistics at the underpass area put out by Ms Kennedy, commenting: “They are high figures but I don’t know what the incidents are being included in this.”

She said though: “I’m aware there was a serious incident on the guy who got seriously assaulted and off the back of that the ward councillors Sue and Ken Jones have been working in a multi disciplinary approach.

“Everybody is coming round the table to see if we can put CCTV in there to reassure the community.

“I think we’re all aware there have been ongoing issues over the years and I think we’re at the point now where something needs to change.

“I’m aware there’s a problem of anti-social behaviour, that’s why we’ve taken this move to get round the table to find a remedy. We want an end of it.”

She continued; “It’s a double-edged sword - the community are saying they want the underpass, but they don’t want the problems associated with the underpass.

“If we close it it would cause difficulties for the community there - we’re trying to find that middle ground.”

Asim Khan, director of customer and digital at Chorley Council, said: “The underpass under the M6 motorway at Moss Lane falls under a number of different agencies. We are working with South Ribble Borough Council, Lancashire County Council, the police and Highways England to develop a safety improvement plan to tackle the issues.”

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “People should be able to use the underpass without feeling their safety may be threatened. We are looking at what we may be able to do to improve lighting levels on the approaches to the underpass by adjusting street lighting and cutting back highway vegetation.”

South Ribble NPT Sergeant Anthony Burgess said: “Following a meeting with local councillors Ken and Sue Jones in February, PC 2722 Thompson from the Leyland South Ribble Police team is leading a multi-agency problem solving approach to address crime and anti-social behaviour on Moss Lane in Leyland.

“This in partnership with SRBC, Highways England and local business to reduce issues through redesign, security features and redevelopment.”

MP Ms Kennedy revealed the Moss Lane crime and anti-social behaviour figures in a letter to the community, saying they had come from local neighbourhood police officers.

She wrote: “This is vastly more than what would be expected for a street of similar size and location.”

She added; “It is clear there is a serious problem for the neighbourhood around this underpass, with the abandoned convent adjacent to the passageway being vandalised on a number of occasions and a child recently being hurt due to obtaining illegal access to the building and falling through a

floor.”