A link to the Morecambe-Heysham peninsula from what is now the M6 Motorway was included in the “Road Plan for Lancashire” published by the County Council in 1949. This identified a route extending westwards from a junction on a North-South Bypass of Lancaster (future Lancaster Bypass then M6 Motorway) to the north of the River Lune, northwest of Halton. The route extended around the north of Lancaster to a junction with Morecambe Road near Torrisholme.
The 1962 Lancashire Development Plan identified the Morecambe Link Road in the Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham Town Map. The Link Road extended along a corridor northeastwards from Morecambe Road to the west of the Lancaster and Morecambe College before turning eastwards to the northeast of Torrisholme to connect with the Lancaster Bypass (future M6) at a junction north of the River Lune. Subsequently Lancaster City Council protected a corridor of land between Morecambe Road and Torrisholme Road and beyond and a plan of a “Corridor of Protection for Highway” was produced by Lancashire County Council for blight purposes. As a consequence, Lancashire County Council acquired areas of land south of Torrisholme Road in 1966 and 1974 as they lay within the protected corridor.
In 1985 a scheme identification study examined the possibility of a Western Route option. This was subsequently selected as the basis for the route to be taken forward.
The Lancashire Structure Plan 1986-1996 included the Lancaster/Morecambe Bypass (Phase 1 of Heysham to M6 Link) as an improvement to the inter-urban road network to be carried out in the period beyond 1990.
In 1992 construction started on the 5.7km Lancaster/Morecambe Bypass between Trumacar Lane, Heysham and Morecambe Road near Torrisholme and the Bypass was opened to traffic in July 1994. Construction of Phase 1 of the Heysham to M6 Link was as a result of Lancashire County Council's long standing commitment to the scheme.
In January/February 1993 proposals for a route to the west of Lancaster were exhibited at a Public Consultation. As a result of comment received the exhibited Western Route scheme was modified and then approved by the County Council in 1994 and protected for planning purposes.
In May 1995 the Lancashire Structure Plan 1991-2006, which included the approved Lancaster Western Bypass, underwent an “Examination in Public”. The report issued in September 1995 by the Panel undertaking the examination recommended that the Lancaster Western Bypass be deleted from the Structure Plan because of its potential visual and environmental impacts, and the possibility of a Northern Bypass and a new or improved junction with the M6 be investigated.
In October 1997 the County Council held a Public Consultation into three proposed routes, two to the west of Lancaster (Green and Blue Routes) and one to the north of the City (Orange Route). The consultation and a subsequent survey in January 1998 indicated widespread support for a road link to the M6 (a resounding 94% of people supported the link road) but opinions were divided on the route choice.
In March 1998, following the Public Consultation and survey, the County Council selected the Western (Green) Route, therefore rejecting the alternative Western (Blue) Route and the Northern (Orange) Route.
During 1998 and 1999 the Western Bypass (Green Route) was considered at the Lancaster Local Plan Inquiry. The inspector concluded that the benefits of the Green Route were not clear and as the route would cause significant damage to the environment, he recommended that the Western Bypass should be deleted from the Local Plan. Subsequently Lancaster City Council resolved not to accept the Inspector's recommendation because of changes to the scheme proposed by Lancashire County Council altering the balance of costs and benefits in favour of the route, changing circumstances indicating a reasonable degree of certainty of proceeding with a Western Route in the Plan period, and the need for consistency between Local Plan, Structure Plan, Regional Planning Guidance and Regional Strategy.
In 2001 the Lancashire Local Transport Plan 2001/2-2005/6 was submitted with the Western Bypass (Green Route), including the changes outlined above, as the major scheme bid. The Government's response, whilst accepting that completing the Heysham to M6 Link could be a way forward in tackling Lancaster's various traffic problems, questioned the suitability of the route and restated the doubts raised through the earlier public inquiry process.
Between June and September 2001 the County Council undertook a Public Consultation into two alternative routes: a Western (Green) Route and a Northern (Orange) Route. As part of the Public Consultation the County Council commissioned MORI Social Research Institute to carry out a structured survey of around 1000 residents at randomly selected locations within the Lancaster District. The survey was conducted by face to face interview in August/September 2001 among a representative cross-section of residents. This showed that 79% supported the proposal with only 8% opposing the completion of the Heysham to M6 Link. There were similar levels of support for both routes.
In December 2001, the County Council Cabinet considered the outcome of the Public Consultation and recommended detailed environmental impact studies on both the Green and Orange Routes be undertaken to determine the viability of the two route options.
On 2 September 2004 the Highways and Transportation Cabinet of the County Council selected the Northern (Orange) Route as the preferred route to complete the Heysham to M6 Link. The decision was based on environmental and technical assessments, in particular a nature conservation and ecological assessment undertaken by ADAS Consulting Ltd starting in September 2002, together with advice received, including legal advice from leading counsel. This concluded that it would be unlikely that the Western route could be built.
Between 9 and 13 May 2005 Public Exhibitions displaying the approved Northern Route were held at 5 different locations (Carnforth, Halton, Torrisholme, Skerton and Bolton-le-Sands).
In July 2005 a Major Scheme Business Case at Programme Entry was submitted to the Department for Transport as part of the Lancashire Local Transport Plan. The purpose of this submission was to secure funding for the scheme.
On 19th October 2005 following public feedback from the May Exhibitions the scheme was amended in the Torrisholme Area and a further exhibition was held at Torrisholme Methodist Church to show these changes.
In December 2005 the Planning Application was submitted to the Development Control section of the County Council and following objections and comments from statutory and non-statutory parties and the Planning Officer. A document entitled ‘Responses to Objections and Comments' was issued in June 2006. This was followed on 12 September 2006 with the ‘Revised Planning Application.
On 1st November 2006 the Development Control Committee considered the revised Planning Application and the Planning Officer's report on the application. Transport Solutions for Lancaster & Morecambe, Lancaster & Morecambe College and a Mr Walden had given presentations to the Committee on the previous day. Objectors and supporters of the proposal also gave short addresses to the Development Control Committee. Against the proposal were Lancaster & Morecambe College, Transport Solutions for Lancaster & Morecambe, Mr Walden, Geraldine Smith MP (Morecambe & Lunesdale) and three local residents from Torrisholme, Slyne-with-Hest and Halton. For the proposal were Mr Taylor from Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, Andrew Dobson Head of Planning for Lancaster City Council, Councillor Ian Barker as Leader of Lancaster City Council, County Councillor Jean Yates (Heysham Ward), County Councillor Janice Hansen (Morecambe West Ward), County Councillor Niki Penney (Skerton Ward).
The Development Control Committee unanimously passed the application, but the County Council had been instructed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government that planning consent should not be granted until she had considered the application.
On 8th February 2007 the Government Office North West for the North West advised the County Council that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government had decided to hold a Public Inquiry into the proposed scheme.
The Planning Public Local Inquiry at the Holiday Inn, Caton Road Lancaster adjacent to Junction 34 of the M6 started on Tuesday 10 July 2007 and finished on Friday 10 August 2007.
On the 7 February 2008 the Inspector's recommendation that planning permission be granted subject to conditions was agreed by the Secretary of State and Planning Permission was granted.
A legal challenge against the Secretary of State's decision was heard in the High Court on the 28 th August 2008 and was dismissed.
On the 28 January 2009 the Department for Transport approved Programme Entry status for the scheme (indication of funding).
Legal Orders (including the Compulsory Purchase Order) were published on the 22 October 2010 with the objection period ending on the 10 December. The Secretary of State decided to hold a Public Inquiry into the Orders which was planned for October 2010.
The contractor, Costain, was appointed on the 4 May 2010 to help complete the design and programme the construction works.
On the 10 June 2010 the Department for Transport put the scheme on hold and postponed the Inquiry pending the Government spending review.
Current estimate of start of works on site (subject to legal processes and funding) is September 2012 with completion of the scheme in March 2015.