Colchester blamed for A12 delay

A GOVERNMENT minister has urged Colchester Borough Council to "get a move-on" so a crucial new junction on the A12 gets the go ahead– or risk holding-up a massive new development in the town.

A GOVERNMENT minister has urged Colchester Borough Council to "get a move-on" so a crucial new junction on the A12 gets the go ahead- or risk holding-up a massive new development in the town.

A series of major building projects in the borough, including a new stadium for Colchester United Football Club and 1,700 homes, are dependent on the junction being built for access reasons.

But concern has been voiced that the council is dragging its heels - potentially delaying in the project.

The news emerged after Colchester MP Bob Russell asked Transport Minister Kim Howells in the House of Commons when work on the junction, which is intended to link the A12 with the north of the town, would start.


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Mr Howells said: "The Highways Agency approved the developer's scheme for a new junction in July 2003.

"The planning applications are still being considered by Colchester Borough Council."

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The junction from the A12 Colchester Northern bypass to the Northern Approach Road at Severalls is needed so the National Health Service can sell the former Severalls Hospital land for housing and employment developments.

It is also needed for access to the likes of Colchester United's new stadium.

In July, the council's planning committee approved the plans in principle, although it has yet to submit the proposals to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

After this is done, if they are not "called in" for Government scrutiny, they will be transferred to the Highways Agency which will then consult with the relevant developers.

Mr Russell said in the Commons: "I urge the Minister and his colleagues to work with the Highways Agency and the NHS to get the junction approved sooner rather than later."

But Mr Howells hit back: "I trust the hon. Gentleman will tell the council to get a move on - especially, given that the Liberals are the largest party on it."

Mr Russell said later he still believed it was the Highways Agency, rather than the council, which was causing the hold up.

He added: "I am perplexed, puzzled and very angry because somewhere this matter has got stuck in a logjam.

"The planning applications have been approved, subject to legal conditions. I still maintain the Highways Agency is at fault."

However last night it emerged that the council was not intending to submit the plan to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott until the end of this month.

The council's principal planning officer, Claire David, said: "It hasn't had formal planning permission issued because of outstanding issues, not least the drafting of a legal agreement.

"Once we have resolved all these matters it will be referred to the Deputy Prime Minister."

A spokeswoman for the Highways Agency said: "At this stage, we have not been notified that the planning application has been approved.

"Until the council has completed that process and the Highways Agency has been notified we are not dealing with this.

"The stage after that will be for the developers to get involved and submit their design proposals and funding plans to us."

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