Funding delay 'threatens Network North scheme'

19/04/2024
Chris Ames

A highway authority has called for ‘urgent discussions’ with the Government after a £95m bypass scheme promised ‘Network North’ top-up funding has suffered a further delay.

Cheshire East Council called the delay in Department for Transport approval for the Middlewich Eastern Bypass ‘disappointing’.

The project had been promised top-up funding from redirected HS2 cash.

The bypass is a large local major scheme that was first promised £46.8m towards a total cost of £56.9m in 2017. However, by the time the council submitted its detailed business case in October 2023 ‘for final sign off’, the cost had risen to £95.74m.

The council said the business case included details of developer contributions and 'clearly demonstrated a positive return on investment’.

It had originally anticipated a funding decision last December but was then told to wait until this year.

The Government has now requested more information about the scheme's ‘overall value for money’.

The council is 'seeking urgent discussions with government' over a decision and stressed that construction works were due to begin within the next few months and early enabling works have already started.

Council leader Sam Corcoran (pictured) said: ‘This further delay to the approval of the scheme is a further blow to the council’s growth and levelling up ambitions for the borough.’

Mark Goldsmith, chair of the council’s highways and transport committee, said: ‘While we remain extremely keen to start main construction works on the scheme this year, this late request for additional information will be costly and does put at risk the affordability of the scheme.

‘Until we have had further conversations with Government officials, we also do not yet know the impact of this on the timetable for delivering the scheme.’

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