A120 business summit hailed a success
PUBLISHED: 11:58 15 December 2014 | UPDATED: 11:58 15 December 2014
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A campaign meeting to bring together groups and businesses to push for dualling of the A120 “instilled confidence” in firms.
Pensions to fund A120 work?
Pension funds could be used to fund infrastructure projects such as the A120.
One resident at the summit asked why savers who are struggling to get any return on their investment could not be issued with some sort of bond, with the cash used to develop roads and rail.
However George Kieffer, chairman of the Haven Gateway Partnership and vice-chairman of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), revealed a similar scheme was already being worked on.
He said: “The LEP is in the process of launching the South East Fund, drawing in major long-term investments – those over 25-30 years, maybe from pension funds – which will address exactly the point you raised about trying to drive up the returns.”
During the meeting Rodney Bass, Essex county councillor for highways and transportation, pledged £5million to boost the campaign to dual the A120 between Marks Tey and Braintree.
The event, organised by the Haven Gateway Partnership and the county council, was hosted by MPs Priti Patel, Sir Bob Russell and Bernard Jenkin.
It is hoped the £5m will kick-start efforts by the Highways Agency to launch a design study and consultation leading ultimately to a preferred route for a dual carriageway link between Braintree and the A12.
The Haven Gateway Partnership, backed by Essex County Council, has recently called on the government to back its £10m bid to the EU for funding for a feasibility study for the Braintree to Marks Tey section, as well as safety works at blackspots along the Essex stretch of the road.
Graham Butland, leader of Braintree District Council, reminded the summit that his authority had also pledged £2.5m from its New Homes Bonus to the project earlier in the year.
Ms Patel, whose constituency includes Marks Tey, said there would be potentially 30,000 more vehicles using the A120 in the next few years, but the road was unable to cope.
She told the packed meeting, which had an estimated 160 people attend: “It is your support that will make this happen. There will be challenges but we have to speack with one voice.”
Mr Jenkin, Harwich and North Essex MP, added: “This [turnout] is a real signal that the local business community is determined to see an improvement.
“The East of England is one of the powerhouses of the UK and we are net contributors to the Exchequer. We don’t mind doing that, but we don’t want to do it with one arm tied behind our backs.
“Some years ago we lost the opportunity to get this done because we started arguing among ourselves about what the route should be. Any new road will be controversial, but we are going to have to stand together otherwise it will take us 20 years to get back to it.”
Several leaders at the meeting said they hoped the project would be well underway in terms of the background work within five years.
After the meeting Green county and Braintree district councillor James Abbott warned of a hidden agenda of mass development connected with the route improvement which he said would cause more congestion in town centres. However he did support safety improvements.
What businesses said after the summit:
Steve Wakefield, managing director of CCL UK which has recently set up at Gas House Quay in Harwich, said: “The A120 is a road in need of dire improvement. It’s dangerous and not up-to-scratch infrastructure.
“I am fairly confident. This meeting gives everybody encouragement.
“You will always get a few who don’t want it, bit we want to progress not just sit and wait.”
Josef O’Sullivan, centre manager at Freeport Braintree, said: “This instils confidence and we are fully supportive of it.
“It is very promising to see so many businesses in for the meeting, very encouraging.
“This could add 30% to our customer base.”