Lancashire County Council's cabinet has decided to make the arrangement permanent by replacing the temporary traffic order that has governed the top speed along the Preston Western Distributor since it opened in early July.
When the dual carriageway route – now officially known as Edith Rigby Way - was first conceived, it was proposed as a 70mph link between the new junction 2 of the M55 and the A583 at Riversway and Blackpool Road.
However, once the two-and-half mile stretch started carrying traffic - after four years of construction work - it emerged that a lower limit of 50mph had been imposed. That followed a change of mind by County Hall highways bosses who had carried out a public consultation on the higher speed only at the turn of the year.
In spite of there being no objections to the 70mph proposal, the authority later decided to lower the limit at which vehicles could travel along the corridor over safety concerns because of the volume of new housing in the area - and it undertook a second consultation in April.
The temporary order meant that traffic enforcement by police speed camera vans could have been carried out since day one of the new road’s operation. However, The Gazette understands that no such enforcement activity has yet taken place.
Cabinet members have now approved a permanent order for the 50mph limit, meaning that cameras could still be deployed at any time to catch motorists not sticking to the rules.
A report presented to the meeting at which the green light was given to the lower speed for Edith Rigby Way states that the reversal was the result of concerns “for the safety of road users” - especially pedestrians - because of the “expected increase in urban development” nearby. The route was actually built to facilitate the huge housing boom planned for North West Preston over the 20 years up to the mid-2030s, with around 6,000 properties expected to spring up in the area during that time.
The inclusion of an additional roundabout junction compared to the original plans was also pinpointed as the need for the 50mph limit.
As The Gazette revealed in July, an oversight resulted in Lancashire County Council’s website advising until just hours before the route opened that it would operate at 70mph.
It was then claimed on social media that a speed camera van had been monitoring the road within days of the opening, but Lancashire Police told The Gazette at the time that the vehicle had simply been driving along it.
Permanent limits have also been agreed for two other roads built as part of the £207m scheme.
The East-West Link Road - now christened William Young Way - will be 40mph between Edith Rigby Way and shortly before its junction with Sandy Lane. The remainder of the route through to Tom Benson Way and Lightfoot Lae will have a top speed of 30mph.
The Cottam Link Road - officially now called Avice Pimblett Way - will run at 40mph between Edith Rigby Way and the first roundabout on the route, where it will become 30mph through to Lea Road.
Meanwhile, at the request of Woodplumpton Parish Council, the existing limit on Bartle Lane - from the junction with Sandy Lane to Lea Lane North - has been permanently cut from the national speed limit of 60mph to 30mph.
As part of the original plans, a new section of Bartle Lane was always proposed to be set at 30mph, because of its design and geometry. However, highways officials agreed to extend that limit to the entire route, after developments in the area changed the nature of the road compared to when the wider scheme was originally designed.