New row over plans to widen A12 route to East Anglia
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
News that the proposed widening of the A12 in Essex could take a decade to complete has re-ignited a simmering row between Home Secretary Priti Patel and Colchester council.
Highways England has launched a new consultation on the proposal to rebuild the road with three lanes in each direction - and revealed the earliest it could open was 2028.
The delay has come because it has to decide which route it should take around new developments in Marks Tey which is in Ms Patel's Witham constituency.
Ms Patel was quick to blame the Liberal Democrat-led council for the delay: "While it's pleasing to see progress being made with taking this vital scheme for our economy forward, it is a huge cause of frustration that local communities, residents and businesses have faced severe delays.
"Highways England's approach is a pragmatic way to make as much progress as possible but the fact remains that Colchester Borough Council's incompetence has led to this appalling situation arising.
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"The A12 widening scheme was never intended to be directly linked into a particular housing plan but Highways England have now had their hands tied in this process.
"Colchester Borough Council's ill-thought through housing plans desecrate Copford and were put forward with no proper consultation taking place.
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"Had this rotten Council not changed its housing proposals, we'd be getting ready to see diggers in the ground next year. Instead, we need a further consultation and face a longer wait to see the outcome of the local plan process. I would encourage all residents and businesses to respond to the current consultation."
Council leader Mark Cory said the Local Plan for the area had been drawn up by a consortium of councils, with Conservative controlled Braintree, Maldon and Essex County Council working alongside Colchester.
He said: "She's only criticising us because we're not Conservative-controlled. Nothing has been included in these plans without agreement from all the councils.
"Frankly it's a bit hypocritical for her to accuse us of being a rotten council. Some might say she was a rotten minister - she left Theresa May's cabinet after breaking the ministerial code."
The borough has frequently come under fire from Ms Patel over its planning decisions - especially the Tollgate development and housing developments in the part of the borough she represents in parliament.