New road for Ribble Valley wastewater plant condemned as unnecessary

A resident of a Ribble Valley village has questioned why a permanent new road needs to be created to facilitate construction work at a sewage plant that will last just six months.

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 1:13 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd April 2021, 1:14 pm

United Utilities is set to carry out a major upgrade of the facilities at its Wilpshire Wastewater Treatment Works off Ribchester Road in Clayton-le-Dale.

Much of the work – which is needed to meet new discharge effluent standards – does not require planning permission and can go ahead under what are known as “permitted development” rights.

However, the firm has had to seek approval from Lancashire County Council to modify the narrow route leading to the site in order to enable access for the heavy goods traffic that will be required to carry out the planned work.

A United Utilities tanker negotiates the current narrow access road to the Wilpshire Wastewater Treatment Works off Ribchester Road in Clayton-le-Dale (image: Google)

That will see alterations to the track known locally as The Croft, which is just 2.6 metres wide. A new four-metre wide road will be constructed running parallel to the lane – from its junction with Ribchester Road – before joining up with the existing access route, which will be expanded to 3.5 metres for the remainder of its length.

Further widening at the Ribchester Road junction will be reversed once the works are complete, but the other changes will remain in place – and a meeting of the county council’s development control committee heard one resident ask why.

Steve Almond raised the prospect that the new road was needed for “a reason that isn’t disclosed in this application”.

He said that the permanence of the changes was at odds with the fact that just a handful of extra weekly tanker vehicle visits are expected to the site following the upgrade – and suggested that the two landowners across whose property the road will run had an “obvious interest” in the creation of new infrastructure “that might support potential future development opportunities”.

The highways modifications will lead to the loss of six individual trees and a wider group of trees and shrubs, including two sycamores covered by tree preservation orders. County Hall’s principal planning officer Jonathan Haine said that while the removal of vegetation was “unfortunate”, there was “no reasonable alternative way to access the site”.

According to papers presented to the committee – which approved the application by a majority – United Utilities had considered creating an entirely new route for the 2,500 vehicle movements expected during the construction works, but that the option – running from the end of Ryden Close – was dismissed because it would have funnelled HGVs down a residential street.

However, Ribble Valley South West county councillor Alan Schofield said that the firm had been “safely using the existing track…for decades”

“The need for a permanent, wider road, with all the destruction involved is just ridiculous,” he added.

Following the meeting a United Utilities spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that there were no unspoken plans for the site.

“The new road means we’ll be able to install several extra treatment processes on site so that the treated water going back to local water courses is better than ever. The current access road is not suitable for construction traffic. It will become a public footpath and private road, and will be separated from the new road by a hedge.

“We looked at all the options and this is the least disruptive. Although we’ll have to take out some trees and shrubs we’ll replace them with managed landscaping once the new road’s width has been reduced. We don’t have any further plans for the site after that, so we hope that puts people’s minds at rest.”