Initial thoughts on yesterday’s budget and the implications for North Essex Garden Communities. Will be updated as we digest…
Published with the budget was a paper setting out which road projects will move forward. CAUSE has been aware for some time that the widening of the A12 has been blocked by the slow progress of the garden communities plan. Now it is clear that the dualling of the A120 between Braintree and the A12 has suffered the same fate. Infrastructure first? No, infrastructure later.
The local authorities and MPs of north Essex have long lobbied government for a dualled A120 between Braintree and the A12. A route, route D, passing by Silver End and reaching the A12 just south of Kelvedon, was chosen further to consultation, and the hope was that the project would be included in the ‘RIS2’ (Road Investment Strategy 2) programme. Today’s budget will dash their hopes.
The A120 is listed as RIS3 ‘pipeline’, and a note states, “The A120 Braintree to A12 proposal is currently affected by outstanding funding contributions related to the development of the Colchester/ Braintree Border Garden Community and contributions from local authorities. Subject to decisions in these areas, the scheme may become committed for delivery.” Effectively, the A120 is now on a par with new proposals, which have to “enter development between now and 2025” to be promised in RIS3.
- the A120 dualling has now been linked with ‘West Tey’ (CBBGC), which, when the route consultation was run, it was not. Only £31.5 million of developer contributions are set aside for the A120 for West Tey, and over a period of 80 years;
- government is blocking a road project costing £500 million on the basis of uncertainty over such a small contribution towards total cost;
- The delay and uncertainty has obvious implications for the soundness of the Section 1, garden communities plan. If government wants to continue to support the NEGCs, it has just shot itself in the foot.
The A12 widening, however, is now ‘committed for RIS2’:
“A12 Chelmsford to A120 – widening the A12 to three lanes between junction 19 (north of Chelmsford) and junction 25 (A120 interchange). This may include delivery of additional improvements around the site of the Colchester/Braintree Border Garden Community, subject to support from the HIF [CAUSE emphasis]. This scheme will need to take into account evolving proposals for the A120 Braintree to A12.”
Readers are likely to be aware that the Housing Infrastructure Bid referred to above was to realign (…move) the A12 to accommodate a larger West Tey.
In what is a ridiculous waste of tax-payers’ money, not only has this HIF bid been granted, but the amount granted is higher than bid for (£229 million):
“£272 million from the Housing Infrastructure Fund for the ‘Colchester Braintree Garden Community’ bid. This funding will be used to realign the eastern section of the A12 between Junctions 24 and 25 in order to unlock up to 20,931 homes as part of the North Essex Garden Community.”
This is extraordinary given that the authorities told the inspector that the HIF bid was not needed for the viability or deliverability of West Tey.
The budget notes that:
“Schemes on the Strategic Road Network that are funded under the HIF (listed below) are intended to be delivered alongside those listed above, but they are subject to different governance arrangements to those funded through RIS2, and they are not guaranteed by RIS2 should they not proceed with HIF funding.”
The A120 now appears to be linked with the garden communities. It is a regional road. It has nothing to do with individual developments;
The moving of a piece of road infrastructure seems to be deemed more important than the dualling of the A120;
Some quite heavy pressure appears to be applied on the inspector;
Lobbying by MPs against the A12 HIF bid has been ignored;
The garden communities would still have no new hospital, no rail upgrade, no viable rapid transit system and even no sewage plant, let alone all the other infrastructure and viability issues raised at examination. West Tey’s allocation for community and health for the first 5,000 residents is only £1.5million. That will barely by a scout hut, a paddling pool and a first aid kit.