M65. A682(M6) to Whitebirk (J1A to J6)

The recommended highway network in the Final Report of the North East Lancashire Project Study (NELPS), published in 1969, included a 'Fast Route' as its backbone. From the intersection of the M6 and the M61 the proposed route for a dual three-lane motorway ran eastwards to the heart of Blackburn to be integrated into the future plans for the town. Beyond the town centre it passed through to Whitebirk, and further east, along the Calder Valley as far as Colne.

In 1972, the firm of Consulting Engineers, of Howard Humphreys and Partners, was appointed to carry out the design of the route between Riley Green and Whitebirk, which included the section through Blackburn. The Lancashire Sub-Unit of the North Western Road Construction Unit (NWRCU) assumed responsibility for the detailed design of both the section between M6/M61 and Riley Green, and that from Whitebirk to Burnley.

It was intended that the preparation, design, statutory procedures, and construction would be completed by 1978, but this optimistic programme did not reckon with the implications of new requirements for public participation in road planning. It was decided, therefore, by the Department of the Environment, that there should be extensive Public Consultation into a number of possible routes, between M6/M61 and Hyndburn.

Of the six routes examined, the Sub-Unit carried out the initial route location and assessment for four of them, identified by the colours, Red, Yellow, Purple and Green. The Consulting Engineers concentrated on the complex Blue and Brown routes passing through Blackburn Town Centre. Whereas, it was intended that four of the routes would be constructed to motorway standard, the Yellow and Green routes would be all-purpose roads only.

The first of its kind in the UK, the Consultation Exercise, which took place in Spring 1975, involved the distribution of several thousand copies of a document inviting participants to complete a Questionnaire commenting on the alternatives. An exhibition was held for several days at six different locations.

The County Council as the local Highway Authority, together with all the District Councils in North East Lancashire, except Blackburn Borough Council, supported the motorway standard Brown route. It was feared, however, that the majority of the members of the public would opt for the Green route, as it affected the least number of properties and avoided the urban parts of Blackburn.

The Secretary of State did not announce his decision that the all-purpose Green route had been selected until the Autumn of 1977. This route to the south of Blackburn had been rejected in the NELPS at an early stage, and did not feature in the Report of the Study. With a relatively low economic rate of return, the scheme was removed from the National Roads Programme in 1980, when design work was suspended.

Strong representations continued to be made against these decisions, which culminated, in late 1983, in a major deputation to the Minister of State for Transport led by the County Council and supported by Members of Parliament, and representatives of all the local authorities in North East Lancashire. By that time sections of the Calder Valley Route beyond Whitebirk had already been completed or were under construction to motorway standard.

In 1984, the Secretary of State accepted the case that had been made and, in due course, design work was resumed for a motorway standard road on an alignment similar to the Green route. With the abolition of the Sub-Unit, Howard Humphreys and Partners assumed design responsibility for the whole of the section, which became known as the Blackburn Southern By-pass.

Detailed design work began in 1989 for the 13 mile long route, and Public Inquiries were held in February 1990 and November 1991.

The section of motorway was to have mainly dual two-lane carriageways, with some sections to be constructed with three-lane carriageways. All the structures were, however, to be designed to allow for future widening without alteration.

M65. A582(M6) to Whitebirk (J1A to J6)There were to be two major three-level interchanges connecting with the M6 and the M61, and a free-flowing junction with the completed section of the M65 to the east of Whitebirk. Of the four other junctions providing links to major roads, three were to be located on radial routes to the southwest and south of Blackburn. It was envisaged that the improvement in communications would enhance the opportunities for developing major industrial sites on the southern periphery of Blackburn, and in nearby Darwen.

The works were to be undertaken under two main construction contracts to the west and east of Stanworth, starting in March 1994 and March 1995 respectively. However, alterations to public utility services were carried out under advance contracts involving major items such as the Thirlmere Aqueduct, and 440kV National Grid and other high voltage overhead lines.

In an area where there had been no malicious objection to the motorway, the arrival of 'protestors' at the start of the first main contract affected progress. They established bases in abandoned buildings and trees, and caused delay and disruption to both contracts. The provision of security guards also involved considerable additional costs.

In carrying out the earthworks there was a massive shortfall of site-won filling material, with the main deficit at the eastern end of the project. In all, over 3 million cubic yards of imported fill were needed for the two contracts, the main source being a borrow pit near Brindle, which raised considerable opposition from local residents.

There were three major rock cuttings, near Stanworth Farm, at Guide, and at Stanhill. The motorway passed between a line of 440kV pylons and the listed building of Stanworth Farm. Forming the almost vertical sides of the cutting, presented a particular challenge. Elsewhere, it was necessary to cap two old mineshafts, and an ancient tramway tunnel, last used in 1850, was found while excavating a cutting.

Where the motorway passed through an area known as Earcroft an underground system of stone soughs was encountered. These carried water to nearby cotton mills and a system of thrust-bore tunnels was installed to pick-up and discharge the flow. At Feniscowles, special measures were necessary to prevent the water supply to a paper mill drawn from the River Roddlesworth from being contaminated by run-off from the motorway.

M65. A582(M6) to Whitebirk (J1A to J6)2A large number of structures was required. Of the total of 46 bridges, there are four major viaducts. Two carry the motorway over the M6 and the M61, within the interchanges, and the others cross steep-sided valleys. At Stanworth Woods, the spectacular 1000 feet long structure is over 100 feet above the valley floor. It was incrementally launched by the Contractor in order to reduce the damage to trees in the valley below. In addition to a further 15 underbridges, there are 20 overbridges, one of which carries the Blackburn-Manchester railway line. Of the four footbridges which were constructed, a unique lattice girder bridge at Brimmicroft carries both a public footpath and a stream over the motorway.

Throughout both the design and the carrying out of the construction, particular attention was given to environmental matters. These included the pre-contract relocation of plants, and extensive planting on the completion of the works.

In addition to the extensive use of mounding, the first use in the UK of transparent screens on two overbridges, had the effect of reducing traffic noise on adjacent property.

The Blackburn Southern By-pass section of the M65 was opened to traffic in December 1997.

It is regrettable that, from the opening of the first section of the Calder Valley motorway between Burnley and Brierfield in October 1981, it took a further 16 years for the M65 to be finally connected to the national motorway system. It is recognised that financial restrictions during that period and the time taken to complete the Statutory Procedures were material factors. It would appear, however, that the extensive Public Consultation exercise, and the resulting delays in the decision-making process as to how the project was to be taken forward, were the major reasons why the aspirations of the population of North East Lancashire were not realised at an earlier date.


Archive Information

M6/M61 to Whitebirk and Whitebirk to Hyndburn Sections


The full archive for this scheme is stored at the Lancashire CC Record Office.  Click to see details of this record office, then delete the popup page to return.  There is not yet an Accession Number for this data. 




North East Lancashire Project Study - Final Report'.
Investigation into road proposals for NE Lancs including a 'fast route' (M65).
(42 pages including maps, diagrams and photos.)
September 1969 Lancashire County Council
2 M6/M61 to Burnley Section
Route Location & Design'
(18 pages including maps).
2000 S Coleman
Team Leader
County Surveyor's Dept
3 Whitebirk/Hyndburn
Public Inquiry Statement of DTp'
(66 pages)
November 1980 Department of Transport
4 'Whitebirk to Hyndburn Section'
Leaflet giving basic information on the scheme and showing types of bridges.
(4 pages including maps and diagrams)
1983 Departments of the Environment and Transport
Babtie Shaw & Morton
5 Whitebirk to Hyndburn Section'
Leaflet describing the project for visits during construction
(4 pages including map, diagram and photos.)
1984 Departments of the Environment and Transport
Babtie Shaw & Morton
6 Whitebirk to Hyndburn Section
Opening Brochure
(4 pages including map, diagram' and photos.)
19 December 1984 Department of Transport
7 'Calder Valley Route M6/M61 to Hyndburn :
Choice of Route'
Public Consultation document including Questionnaire)
(14 pages plus maps)
1975 Department of Environment
8 Report on the Blackburn Internal Road Network associated with the alternative alignments'
(39 pages including maps and diagrams
March 1974 A D Clark
Borough Engineer & Surveyor
Blackburn BC
9 'Calder Valley Road : Hyndburn to M6/M61.
Text of a letter from the Chairman of the County Council to the Secretary of State for.Transport'
(3 pages)
8 November 1977 Highways & Transportation Committee
Lancashire County Council
10 'Calder Valley Route : M6/M61 to Whitebirk.
Comparison between a scheme to upgrade the existing A59/A677/A6119 route and a new road along the Green B Route'
(133 pages)
June 1983 H L Yeadon
County Surveyor & Bridgemaster
11 'Calder Valley Route (M65) Study :
Economic Assessment'.
(14 pages)
1983 H L Yeadon
County Surveyor & Bridgemaster
12 'Letter from the County Surveyor to Mr Den Dover MP'.
This followed a meeting which was arranged as a consequence of a major Deputation to the Minister.
(5 pages)
13 January 1984 H L Yeadon
County Surveyor & Bridgemaster
13 'M65 Motorway (Bamber Bridge to Whitebirk Section)
BlackburnSouthern By-pass'
Draft Scheme Publication Stage.
Statement Explaining Proposals.
May 1989 Department of Transport
14 'M65 Motorway (Bamber Bridge to Whitebirk Section - Blackburn Southern By-pass).
Statement at Public Inquiry'.
(56 pages plus maps)
February 1990 D J Pearce
Principal Witness
Department of Transport
15 'M65 Motorway (Bamber Bridge to Whitebirk Section - Blackburn Southern By-pass).
'Statement on Traffic and Economics at Public Inquiry'
(52 pages plus maps and diagrams)
February 1990 D J Hardcastle
Howard Humphreys & Partners Ltd
16 'M65 Motorway (Bamber Bridge to Whitebirk Section - Blackburn Southern By-pass).
Environmental Assessment'
(45 pages plus maps and diagrams)
February 1990 The Department of Transport
17 'M65 Blackburn Southern By-pass;
The Early Years'.
(7 pages)
March 2000 J M T Clunas
Associate Director/ Project Manager/ Resident Engineer
Howard Humphreys& Partners Ltd.
18 'M65 Blackburn Southern By-pass;
'The Main and Later Ground Investigation Contracts'
( 3 pages)
April 2001 J M T Clunas
Associate Director/ Project Manager/ Resident Engineer
Howard Humphreys& Partners Ltd.
19 'M65 Blackburn Southern By-pass;
'Some aspects of the Detailed Design
(8 pages)'
April 2001 J M T Clunas
Associate Director/ Project Manager/ Resident Engineer
Howard Humphreys& Partners Ltd.
20 'M65 Blackburn Southern By-pass;
A special supplement campaigning for the completion of East Lancashire's motorway'.
(8 pages)
16 January 1990 The Telegraph
21 Leaflet describing the Works.
(8 pages including maps
1994 Highways Agency
Howard Humphreys
Tarmac Construction (now Carrilion Construction)
22 'M65 Blackburn Southern By-pass
Contract 1 : Bamber Bridge to /Riley Green'.
Contract 1 details'.
(10 pages including maps, drawings and photos.)
1994 Highways Agency
Howard Humphreys
Tarmac Construction (now Carrilion Construction)
23 'M65 Blackburn Southern By-pass
Riley Green to Whitebirk.
Contract 2 details'.
(11 pages including maps drawings and photos.)
1995 Highways Agency
Howard Humphreys
Alfred McAlpine/AMEC Joint Venture
24 'M65 Blackburn Southern By-pass
Junctions 1 to 6: Opening brochure'.
(10 pages including maps and photos.)
December 1997 Highways Agency
25 'Aerial photgraphs after completion
i) Contract 1: M6 Junction 29
ii) Contract 2: Stanworth Valley'
December 1997 Howard Humphreys & Partners Ltd
26 'North East Lancashire Initiative'.
Benefits in locating in NE Lancashire in particular to the significance of M65.
(7 pages including maps diagrams and photos.)
1989 Lancashire County Council
1 North East Lancashire Project Study
1st Interim Report
2nd Interim Report
Working papers
? County Library
2 Miscellaneous Items 1981/83 County Library
3 M6/M61 to Hyndburn
Deposited plans for choice of route
- County Library
4 Whitebirk to Hyndburn - scheme 1981 - County Library
5 'M65 Calder Valley Motorway
Technical appraisal report upon the M6/M61 to Hyndburn section'
(4 Volumes)
1974/75 J M T Clunas
6 'M65 Calder Valley Motorway
Prospect Hill to Hyndburn section
Preliminary site investigation interpretative report'
? J M T Clunas
7 'Report on study progress and a programme for future work for the Whitebirk to Feniscowles section' 1973 J M T Clunas
8 'Deposited documents and drawings
M6/M61 to Hyndburn section'
? J M T Clunas
9 'M65 Calder Valley Route M6/M61 to Hyndburn:
Report and recommendations on alternative routes following Public consultation'
? J M T Clunas
10 'Calder Valley Route: Choice of route from M6/M61 to the east'
Including notes of meetings with Mrs Castle MP and Lancashire County Council
? J M T Clunas
11 'M6/M61 - Hyndburn section: Decision letter' ? J M T Clunas