6 Improving the Local Environment
Lancaster District: An Environment of Quality and Variety
6.1 Lancaster District has substantial environmental capital of which the community can be justifiably proud. Natural assets include two AONBs, Morecambe Bay, the settings of Lancaster and Morecambe including the North Lancashire Green Belt and the Lune Valley. Rural landscapes range from Silverdale limestone to Bowland gritstone, from lush valleys to expansive coastal and estuarine lands. It has a variety of rich semi-natural habitats, particularly woodland and moorland. A comprehensive landscape assessment has been carried out by Lancashire County Council. The District has a variety of rich semi-natural habitats, particularly woodland and moorland.
6.2 It has 4 Natura 2000 sites - Morecambe Bay (SAC, SPA and Ramsar Site), Morecambe Bay Pavements (SAC) (which includes 5 sites in the Silverdale area including the Leighton Moss Ramsar Site and Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve as well as a number of sites in South Cumbria) Bowland Fells (SPA) and Calf Hill/Crag Wood (SAC) near Caton.
6.3 The District has 29 Sites of Special Scientific Interest covering 385 sq km. This represents 42% of Lancashire's SSSIs and 66% of their total area. All 12 of Lancashire's Limestone Pavement Orders are in Lancaster District. The District has local nature reserves at Warton Crag and Trowbarrow Quarry and around 250 County Biological Heritage Sites and 25 County Geological Heritage sites. The Lancashire Biodiversity Action Plan identifies a number of priority habitats.
6.4 In accordance with the requirements of the Habitats Regulations, this Core Strategy has been checked and amended to ensure that it will not have an adverse effect on the integrity of any Natura 2000 Site. The Habitats Regulations Assessment Record is available and should be read in conjunction with this Core Strategy.
6.5 Our built heritage includes 1300 listed buildings, 37 Conservation Areas, 38 Scheduled Ancient Monuments and 2 historic parks and gardens. Collectively this natural and built 'Environmental Capital' is a major economic asset. Lancaster is one of the North West’s most important historic cities. Visually coherent, it is little damaged by inappropriate development. Places and buildings show a strong historic legacy. Its unique strong historical legacy mixes Roman and Mediaeval elements such as the Castle with strongly Georgian and Victorian inner areas and more recent suburbs.
6.6 Morecambe grew from the fishing village of Poulton. The centre is late Victorian / Edwardian in character. Inland are inter-war, post war and modern-day estates. Views across the Bay from the seafront are outstanding.
6.7 The North Lancashire Green Belt separates Lancaster, Morecambe and Carnforth. The Council will continue to protect the Green Belt by meeting most development needs within the urban area and by meeting rural development needs in rural areas outside the Green Belt. Strategic Green Belt issues are considered in Para 4.8 under Urban Concentration.
Threats to the District’s Environment
6.8 Much of the District’s environment is under threat. Urban fringe areas need upgrading. Morecambe’s buildings need investment. Low grade development and sprawl, traffic, the pressures on, modern agriculture and land-management, habitat loss and damage and air, water, ground and light pollution all erode environmental quality.
6.9 In the last thirty years, Lancaster has advanced from being under-invested in and down-at-heel to todays valued and regenerated historic city. Older parts of Morecambe have suffered from neglect and low grade alterations. Many buildings are in disrepair and of poor appearance. Quality however remains is retrievable given substantial investment linked to careful control of development. Some streets and spaces are unappealing due to litter, clutter, bad design, poor management, congestion and pollution. There is scope for a major upgrade of the District's public realm.
6.10 In contrast, much of the countryside appears attractive. Much is accessible via the Rights of Way Network or with open access. There is however little accessible woodland close to the urban areas. In some of the countryside agricultural activity has left little room for wildlife and significant scope to enhance biodiversity.
6.11 The Core Strategy must safeguard and enhance environmental capital, protect finite resources, manage threats such as climate change and flooding, prevent erosion of environmental quality through low grade development and sprawl, poor land management and pollution. Real improvements in environmental quality, require a focus on minimising any adverse development effects and securing gains for the environment. There are gains to be made in;
- Working with local communities to address genuine local needs;
- Improving the public realm and creating more liveable, places;
- Clearing dereliction;
- Conserving and enhancing the built heritage;
- Reducing energy consumption;
- Facilitating renewable energy generation;
- Diversifying land use, creating more and better habitats for wildlife and enhance landscapes.
Transport - Background
6.12 The impacts of traffic and transport on the environment, on mobility and on the local economy are key issues for the Core Strategy. Morecambe and Heysham have particular accessibility problems in that the main road access from these areas to the M6 passes through the congested gyratory systems to the north of Lancaster City Centre. The problem is compounded as port traffic tends to coincide with peak hour traffic in Lancaster City Centre.
6.13 The Community Strategy identifies transport as its key priority whilst the Vision Board’s number one “transformational” project focuses upon finding a long term integrated solution to the congestion between Lancaster and Morecambe. Both the LSP and Vision Board support the Heysham/M6 link road.
Existing Transport Infrastructure
6.14 The District’s main transportation network is shown in Figures 9-10. The strategic routes are the M6 motorway, which runs north-south to the east of Lancaster City, and the West Coast main railway line. The Primary Road Network identified in the Lancashire Local Transport Plan includes the:
- A6 running north south through Lancaster City;
- A589 linking Lancaster to Heysham via Morecambe;
- A5105 linking Morecambe to Bolton-le-Sands, and
- A683 linking Lancaster to the M6 at Junction 34.
6.15 Other A roads and a number of B, C and unclassified roads complete the highway network.
6.16 Lancaster is served by West Coast Main Line services with a local service to Bare Lane, Morecambe and Heysham Harbour. From Carnforth, trains go west to Silverdale and Barrow and east to Wennington and Leeds. Lancaster has slightly higher patronage levels than Lancashire as a whole. There are Rail freight facilities at Heysham’s port and power station. Rail connected sites in Carnforth have poor road links.
6.17 Despite being affected by congestion, the District is well served by buses, particularly in the main urban area which has three Quality Bus services. These link Heysham to the University via Morecambe and Lancaster City Centre. In 2004, passenger numbers grew by 12% on the Lancaster and Morecambe network. Further Quality Bus improvements are currently being implemented between Middleton and the University. Bus routes also link Lancaster with Preston, Carnforth, and the Lune Valley.
6.18 The District has an excellent and growing network of off road cycleways which are also open to pedestrians. Walking and cycling offer a practical and economical form of transport. The Cycling Demonstration Town Project is building on the existing cycling infrastructure and Personalised Travel Planning is promoting the use of the growing infrastructure. Lancaster’s compact urban form means that, proportionally more people walk to work, than anywhere else in Lancashire. Car dependence is high in rural areas and in some housing estates where walking distances are long and public transport opportunities limited.
Usage and Issues
6.19 The District’s transport networks for pedestrians, cycles, road vehicles and trains are well used at all times of the day, with peak periods extending beyond the traditional peak hours. The highway network is highly used for local movements with the majority of journeys to work being intra-district. The high proportion of local movements has influenced modal choice, with the proportion of private car users being lower than other Districts and cycling and walking being popular. Other factors that impact on modal choice are the proximity of residential areas to centres and the high number of students in the District.
6.20 Many roads in the District, particularly those in and surrounding Lancaster City, have high levels of traffic. In the city centre, for example, the A6 has an average daily flow of over 20,000 vehicles per day northbound and over 24,000 southbound. A high proportion of vehicle movements are across Lancaster City Centre bringing congestion to the local network.
6.21 The high volume of vehicles using the constrained and sensitive network of the city centre results in excessive queuing and high levels of congestion, leading to poor air quality. In 2004, the City Council declared an Air Quality Management Area in the city centre. The City and County Councils are working closely together to ensure that suitable measures are provided on this sensitive network to alleviate the problem of air quality.
6.22 Chapter 5 sets out the Council’s key objectives for growing the local economy and furthering its regeneration objectives. Substantial investment in the District’s transport infrastructure is needed to help achieve these aims. This investment ranges from that needed to meet regionally important infrastructure needs (such as the Heysham/M6 link road) to more locally based measures to facilitate continued regeneration in Morecambe, Luneside and other regeneration priority areas.
6.23 The key means of improving transport in the District is the Lancashire Local Transport Plan. The key schemes for Lancaster District in the period up to 2011 are;
- the Heysham to M6 Link Road;
- Lancaster City Centre Air Quality Zone;
- Cycling Demonstration Project;
- Personalised Travel Planning;
- Morecambe West End Neighbourhood Schemes.
- Other schemes under development include Park & Ride and Intelligent Transport Systems including Variable Message Signs to improve network management.
Heysham/M6 Link Road
6.24 This new road will complete the link between the Port of Heysham and the M6 motorway at Junction 34 and will run to the north of Lancaster and Morecambe. The County Council submitted a Major Scheme Business Case in July 2005 and resolved to grant planning permission in November 2006. Following a public inquiry in July/August 2007, this road scheme was approved by the Secretary of State in February 2008.The scheme has been included in the Regional Funding Allocation Programme. The new road is intended to;
- reduce delay on journeys to the Port of Heysham;
- support the local economy;
- improve access to business areas north of River Lune;
- take through traffic out of residential and commercial areas;
- reduce road casualties and improve air quality;
- allow reallocation of highway space to walking, cycling, public transport and the public realm.
6.25 The City Council supports the link road subject to the following issues being addressed:
- The scheme should be delivered in connection with a full range of sustainable traffic initiatives to avoid the released road space being filled by private vehicular traffic;
- The scheme should also include provision for park and ride facilities to the north of the City;
- Consideration be given to measures to reduce construction noise; and
- All HGV’s should be routed along the link once it is constructed.
6.26 If approved, the road will not been completed until 2012. This means that the road’s potential to contribute to alleviating congestion will not be realised until later in the plan period.
The Short-Term (2003-2012)
6.27 Until then, the Council and its partners will continue to implement measures to minimise the environmental impact of traffic, maximise use of non-car modes including public transport, bike and pedestrian networks and to manage car parking. It will also ensure that the transport impacts of development are mitigated by the negotiation of appropriate planning agreements.
The Long Term (2012-2021)
6.28 The Lancaster and Morecambe Vision, in conjunction with the City and County councils, is undertaking a major study of Transport in the district. This will examine the potential offered by the Heysham-M6 Link, make radical changes to the local road network to transform movement within the urban area. This study document will be a major element in developing transport strategy long-term for the District through the Local Transport Plan process and will be picked up in a future review of the Core Strategy.
6.29 The Council is committed to developing an action plan based on the findings of the Local Transport Study as the basis for its future transport strategy and will work with Lancashire County Council, the Highways Agency and other stakeholders on the development of future planning policy affecting the strategic road network.