‘I’m deeply concerned by this project’ says senior county councillor as extra funding for A10/A142 roundabout agreed
- Credit: Archant
The controversial A10/A142 Ely roundabout has finally been given the go ahead despite accusations over inaccuracies in the documentation, misleading the public.
Metro Mayor James Palmer, said: “Only with additional funding coming from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) can the project go ahead.”
Addressing members of the Transport and Infrastructure Committee at their online meeting (Friday), Mayor Palmer added: “While £2.306m of funding for this project is already in place, I’m asking the committee today, to approve an additional capital grant of £722,527.
“We need another £222,527 to complete the project works and £500,000 against the risk of a costs overrun due to COVID-19 safe-working conditions being imposed upon the workforce [social distancing] lengthening the construction phase.”
However, Cllr Ian Bates (Cambridgeshire County Council), proposed a deferment to the decision, saying: “I’m deeply concerned by this project and the serious inaccuracies in the planning documents that we’re presenting to the public.
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“My request is the paper be withdrawn and a revised paper go to the next Board Meeting on 3 June, which is only two weeks away. That means there should be no delay to the proposed start date of July 2020.
“The report you’re asking us to decide upon is full of inaccuracies and there are many misrepresentations of the facts, as well as other significant discrepancies.
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“I feel as a public body it’s a matter of principle that we publish accurate planning documents that are not misleading and I think the public would expect us to present reports in that way. “This document wasn’t seen by any members of the county council until it was made public and therefore, I think it should be scrutinised, re-written and, at the very least, we should author it jointly between the council, highways and the Combined Authority.’
Mayor Palmer vehemently denied any inaccuracies in the documentation however, following considerable debate the matter was voted upon by the eight members of the committee with the result being a tie (4 to 4).
In accordance with CPCA regulations the motion to defer the decision by Cllr Bates was defeated.
However, no sooner had that controversy subsided, than Cllr Joshua Schumann (East Cambridgeshire District Council) proposed yet another amendment to the documentation.
Many of the committee members were totally against a clause in the original report that would have given Mayor Palmer authority to directly commission highways works without consultation.
The clause read: ‘Instruct Officers, in consultation with the Chair, to explore with the two local highways authorities and HM government the necessary legal changes to allow the Combined Authority to directly commission highway works in the future.’
Cllr Schumann said: “I can see no need for this clause whatsoever and I propose that we do away with it completely as the public will feel that we’re acting without due consultation and diligence.”
The amendment proposal was agreed upon and with controversial matters out of the way members voted to agree the additional capital grant of £722,527 requested by Mayor Palmer.
The £2.529m (estimated) project is part of Mayor Palmers’ original ’20 Crown Jewel’ projects of the Combined Authority.
However, following the revelations over escalating costs disclosed by former Chief Finance Officer Karl Fenlon in November 2018, and who was subsequently sacked by Mayor Palmer, the A10/A142 Roundabout Project dropped right down the ‘league table’ of priorities, in favour of others such as the Kings Dyke Crossing, CAM-Metro, Third Huntingdon River Crossing and the University of Peterborough.
Then, three weeks ago, Mayor Palmer stunned members of the CPCA Board when he announced the Combined Authority would be moving from their rented offices at Alconbury to ‘somewhere’ in Ely and that the decision was a ‘done deal’.
At the same time, the priority rating for the A10/A142 Ely Roundabout project was elevated back to the top of the ‘league table’, presumably to help enable councillors travelling from Cambridge to Ely as quickly as possible when CPCA meetings begin there later in the year, following COVID-19 recovery.
Originally considered for upgrading as far back as 2011, the roundabout is a massive bottleneck at the junction of two very busy trunk roads – the A10 and A142 – with any holdups causing lengthy delays.
Vital not just to unlock future growth in the area but also to alleviate the traffic issues that are currently being experienced, plans were drawn up in 2016, but only last year did the CPCA secure enough funding for the project to go ahead.
But, despite having the £1.445m grant from 2016, topped up by an addition capital grant of £1.168m in March 2019, according to Mayor Palmer the project requires an additional £222,527 to complete the works, plus the £500,000 risk contingency against COVID-19 working conditions causing an overrun.
As Mayor Palmer explained: “We must have this project completed by March 2021, or we risk losing the funding we already have in place.
“The project is due to commence in July 2020, and should be completed in about six months’ time – assuming there are no timing overruns due to coronavirus – the timetable is that critical.”