Campaigners urge rethink on £100m link road project
PUBLISHED: 16:33 17 November 2020 | UPDATED: 17:57 17 November 2020
A £100million road plan “has more strings attached to it than a puppet”, campaigners argue.
Essex County Council (ECC) has now been urged to negotiate harder with the Government over the terms to have a new road built near Colchester.
Although the bulk of the North Essex Garden Communities homes plan has been severely criticised, the A120/A133 Link Road and Colchester Rapid Transit Development plan is still seen to be crucial in the delivery of the garden community between Tendring and Colchester, as well as to stimulate behaviour change and address highway capacity constraints in east Colchester and west Tendring.
ECC has admitted that the project has risks attached – the funding with Homes England for £99.9million is being allocated on the understanding that it is required to be spent by March 2024.
However, there is a risk that any programme delays could result in this target date being missed.
Development campaigner Rosie Pearson said: “Amazingly, Essex County Council has agreed to be responsible for any excess costs, despite the fact that the road supports Colchester and Tendring’s local plan. In this case the contingency is much too low, at 17%, according to the report. Anything could cause costly delays – all it takes is an archaeological find, and Colchester is a town with a rich Roman and other history.”
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ECC is also placing reliance on the receipt of a substantive amount of £10m worth of developer contributions. However, the only way to achieve this is via the planning application process.
ECC admits that there is no guarantee that this contribution will be made, which would mean that ECC is legally required to offer £10m from its own resources – but this would only be possible with the consent of Homes England.
Ms Pearson added: “ECC is reliant on a £10m developer contribution. If this is not agreed, the council says that the scope of the project will be scaled back. You can’t scale back a road so it seems that the rapid transit project will be at risk.
“Therefore, polluting road transport will be prioritised over sustainable transport – despite the statement that the project will release sustainable housing growth.”
She is now urging ECC to revisit the deal.
An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “In the coming days contracts are due to be signed to secure funding Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) for new transport infrastructure in Colchester and Tendring.
“Signing the contract with Homes England will mark an important milestone in our journey to delivering much-needed transport infrastructure in the north of the county.
“We are confident that the contingency proposed is sufficient and as part of the planning process will work closely with land owners and developers to mitigate any risk.”
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