A TINY amphibious creature no more than six inches long looks to have scuppered chances of building the Western Bypass.
More than 50 years after the idea was first raised, the great crested newt – the largest of the newt family – has seemingly succeeded in knocking the bypass from the political agenda. There is, however, still hope of building a link between Heysham and the M6 – but by a northern route instead.
An environmental impact study released by Lancashire County Council concludes the western route, favoured by the majority, would impact heavily on two species protected by the European Union – the great crested newt and bats.
It would also impact on sites of special scientific interest.
Choosing the western route would be "perverse" and "lacking in logic", says the report, and the chances of it being passed by a public inquiry would be between "0 and 10 per cent".
The northern route, on the other hand, creates fewer environmental problems and its chances of success would be far higher.
One sticking point would be how to service Luneside East, the new economic development zone just off St George's Quay.
While the western route would pass the site, the northern route does not.
This could be solved by a bridge linking the area with Morecambe Road.
While the majority of councillors spoken to by The Visitor – with the notable exception of those representing the Green party – were now firmly in favour of the northern route, saying that any bypass was better than no bypass, it has not curried favour with others.
Morecambe's MP, Geraldine Smith told The Visitor the Western Bypass remained her preferred route and that "bats and newts should not be chosen over people".
"My own view is that the western bypass is the far superior route," she said.
"It offers the best in terms of economic development. It opens up the university to Morecambe and Heysham and is the best solution because most traffic travels south.
"What I find the most perverse about the report is that it seems to put bats and newts before people."
She was particularly scathing of linking Luneside East with Morecambe Road.
"The county council report seems to be of the opinion that the western route would have little chance of receiving government support," she added.
"But what it fails to reflect is that the government will not fund any scheme that takes vehicles off one road while at the same time creating additional traffic.
"That is exactly what would happen with any bridge linking Morecambe Road with Luneside.
"And we've all seen what happens when they put just one set of traffic lights at the bottom of Scale Hall.
"Imagine what it will be like if they build a bridge there with all the additional traffic that it will create."
Lancaster's outgoing MP, Hilton Dawson, said he was "sceptical" about whether a link bridge would be "appropriate or indeed necessary".
But he gave his backing to the northern link saying there was "no practical alternative" if there was any chance of enhancing economic development in the district.
He urged "all interest groups and all individuals with a concern for the future of the district to recognise that we must now make progress, that we must have road building as part of a sustainable transport future and that the only realistic proposal which is now available is for the northern bypass".
Lancaster City Council was due to meet yesterday (Tuesday) for their comments on the report.
The county council's cabinet will meet tomorrow (Thursday) to decide the final route.