EXCLUSIVE: Government axes £8million towards Ely bypass but don’t panic just yet council told

Ely Bypass. Separated footway and viewing platform.

Ely Bypass. Separated footway and viewing platform. - Credit: Archant

The Government has dramatically pulled the plug on providing £8million towards the £30million Ely Southern Bypass.

County council officials insist the project can still go ahead but omission of the £8million was a major, and overlooked, part of Monday’s announcement on Government spending in Cambridgeshire.

Graham Hughes, county council executive director for economy, transport and environment, said the £8million bid formed a priority submission by the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

“It was in our top priority list but unfortunately we have got nothing,” said Mr Hughes.

“All bar one in the priority list was funded and it is disappointing”

He said the county council remains hopeful that the bypass can still be delivered in 2015/16, with a planning application going before county councillors in September.

“The scheme will cost around £30million and we have borrowing approval for that but we need to be certain the money is available should it be needed,” said Mr Hughes.

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Some of the costs will be underwritten by Network Rail and the LEP looked set to also make a sizeable contribution.

He declined to speculate whether the money was withheld pending an appeal to Local Government Minister Eric Pickles by English Heritage to reject the by pass or send the scheme to a public inquiry.

Mr Hughes said: “The Government is considering whether to call in the scheme. “While there remain uncertainty about the calling in, there is uncertainty about the time scale.”

Mr Hughes said the council “had been given the signal” that they could go back to the Government for finance once permission is approved – a statement confirmed by the LEP.

Their spokesman Laura-Welham Halstead said at this stage the Government only wanted to fund “those projects which are deliverable soon”. She said the LEP was “pushing hard” to keep funding options open and people ought not to be “unduly disappointed”.

Overall the enterprise board has been promised £71.1million from the local growth fund – with £17.1 million confirmed for 2015/16 and £20.4million for the following year.

Mark Reeve, chairman of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP, said: “All bar one of our top Growth Deal priorities have received funding, securing significant investment from Government for our local area for the next financial year and beyond.

“This is good news for local businesses because it enables us to tackle some of the key issues holding back their growth.”

However Mr Hughes said there was “general disappointment about the scale of the announcement. If we look at our surroundings enterprise partnerships we got a lot less money. It is not enough for the priorities we have- we are a growing county.”

County council leader Steve Count said the Government support announced for transport improvements to Wisbech and Whittlesey were “great news” although overall the funding for Cambridgeshire through the Growth Deal has been disappointing.