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WC Tories gamble £7million on big road bid

March 19, 2020 2:42 PM

Wiltshire Council loves big roads, so it's delighted at being given £75million by the government via the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) scheme to build a big road east of Chippenham, plus 7,500 houses.

WC sees the aim of the exercise to create growth through in-migration and the capacity for people to drive faster around the north of the county.

Twisted Tory logic also claims this to be good for the environment and in keeping with the council's declaration of a climate emergency in 2018.

However all is not lost for existing residents of Chippenham and for those who genuinely take an interest in the real environment. The government needs the money to be spent or directly allocated by March 2024. If it's not, then they'll take it back and waste it elsewhere.

Four years is a short timescale for a big road scheme, which gives opponents the opportunity to use delaying tactics at the planning stage or through legal challenge.

In order to get the process started quickly WC is spending £7.2m of local taxpayers' money. Much of this will go on a project team of ten officers.

The preparatory work will also involve the threat of compulsory purchase of land, and the eviction of farm tenants.

There may also be planning delays in that the housing sites are not all allocated for development so will need to be shoe-horned into a Local Plan Review as quickly as possible.

The current pandemic and subsequent economic crash could also have an impact.

If the project fails - a strong possibility - the money allocated by WC will have been wasted, so revenue budgets will take the hit. Other council functions such as road maintenance and care for the elderly and vulnerable could suffer.

For the full report on the project see cabinet agenda item 13