Progress on Wisbech Access Strategy but warning over how it will be paid for
'Significant progress' has been made on three road schemes aimed at improving transport links around a Fenland town.
The Wisbech Access Strategy was in jeopardy earlier in the summer when spiralling costs and other issues meant the £10.5million budget had almost doubled and urgent action was required.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority stepped in at the 12th hour and agreed to provide an extra £1.88million to ensure the strategy's three schemes would be "shovel ready" should extra funding sources become available.
But where the extra money to construct the schemes would come from was not identified.
The idea was for Cambridgeshire County Council to come up with detailed designs for all three projects: Improvements at the notorious Broadend Road/A47; upgrade of the Elm High Road/Weasenham Lane layout and improvements to Elm High Road junction with the A47, and to complete any necessary land purchases so the schemes were ready to go.
Other work required of the county council was to acquire technical approvals for the schemes from National Highways by the end of this year, and to recover funding given to utilities companies in preparation for construction.
It also had to develop a full business case in order to deliver "shovel ready" projects by the end of December.
A briefing note updating county councillors on the progress made since the Combined Authority's agreement to give the extra money in August said the Broadend Road/A47scheme's design has been submitted to National Highways for technical review and the Road Safety Audit has been undertaken.
Meetings have also been held with National Highways to develop the design so "it is not envisaged there will be any major technical issues raised".
Once refined it will proceed through the next phase to close out the detailed design.
Delays on the delivery of the new layout for Elm High Road/Weasenham Lane has meant that a developer building homes off Weasenham Lane will have to use the existing highway to access his site.
However, the briefing note explains this will not affect the planned improvements at the junction, which it says can be "retrofitted" at a later date.
In terms of completing the multiple land purchases required to deliver all three projects the briefing note says "significant progress has been made and Heads of Terms agreed on most land parcels to enable completion - with many completed to date".
But because the county's project team are reliant on third party agents and sellers' solicitors some sales have taken longer to progress than envisaged.
However it says: "That said all sellers are engaging and there is nothing to suggest there are any blockers or significant risk to acquiring the land parcels required for all three projects. A handful of land parcels are forecast to complete in early 2022 rather than the targeted date of end of 2021."
Wisbech county councillor Sam Hoy has welcomed the progress but tempered it with a concerns over where the funding would eventually come from to build the schemes.
She said: "I'm glad of the progress and that Wisbech Access Strategy has not just been lost as we feared in the summer, but there is no suggestion where we are going to get the extra millions needed - there is a chance it might still never be built."