‘Show Us The Money’: Campaigners demand funding answers

Chris Ames

Shropshire Council has declined to give an updated cost for its North West Relief Road (NWRR) scheme, which campaigners say could cost more than £200m.

The authority has insisted that the cost of the controversial road near Shrewsbury is 'currently' estimated at £80.1m and it still expects the Government to ‘fully fund’ it.

The road was previously costed at £87m but the council said in 2021 that changes to the scheme had shaved £7m off the cost.

However, Better Shrewsbury Transport (BeST) said this week that cost increases since the Department for Transport (DfT) agreed to fund the scheme would leave the authority around £120m short.

It has called on the council and the DfT to be transparent with residents about both the cost of the road and how it will be funded.

As Highways has reported, despite a pledge from transport secretary Mark Harper to fully fund the scheme, the DfT has only said that the project is eligible for an uplift in central government funding from £54m to 100% of the cost as assessed at outline business case stage, which was £80m.

However, two council reports in September identified a funding shortfall of £95m, suggesting that the cost could have risen to 175m.

Campaigners have said this could be even higher once the costs of specialist drainage to protect the source of Shrewsbury’s water supply are factored in.

BeST said it is calling for clarity on a number of key questions, including how much the road will cost, how much the DfT has promised to contribute, and who will be responsible for any cost overrun.

Spokesperson Mike Streetly said: ‘As the cost of the NWRR spirals to over £200m, both Shropshire Council and the DfT need to be transparent with residents. How much exactly has the DfT pledged to spend on this road? Are they writing a blank cheque to cover all of the costs or not? In the words of Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, “Show us the money!”’

A council spokesperson told Highways that senior officers have been in regular contact with the DfT ‘and have been given no reason to believe that Government support for the NWRR will be nothing other than that announced by the secretary of state on TV, fully funded’.

The spokesperson pointed out that the road was granted planning permission in October, subject to agreement of the Section 106 and conditions and that once the final decision notice is issued the final business case (FBC) can be completed.

The spokesperson added: ‘This will spell out clearly the costs of the scheme (currently estimated at £80.1m), based on market procurement and how it would be funded.

‘The FBC will then be discussed by Full Council, before being submitted to the DfT.’

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