Town to get £16.7m long-awaited link road to cut con­ges­tion

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - Winkleigh Weekly News - BY DANIEL CLARK

A new link road that will re­duce grid­lock in the cen­tre of Axmin­ster and al­low the re­gen­er­a­tion of the town to move for­ward has had its fund­ing agreed.

East Devon coun­cil­lors ap­proved bor­row­ing nearly £7m to en­sure the long-awaited Axmin­ster re­lief road can be de­liv­ered.

The £16.7m road would be built to the east of the town near land al­lo­cated in the Lo­cal Plan for 650 homes, eight hectares of em­ploy­ment land, and a pri­mary school.

Some £10m from the gov­ern­ment’s Hous­ing In­fra­struc­ture Fund will help de­liver the road, with the re­main­der of the cost cov­ered by de­vel­op­ers.

The cabi­net on Wed­nes­day night agreed to for­ward-fund and take own­er­ship of de­liv­ery of the road and to claw the funds back from de­vel­op­ers at a later date, to en­sure the road can be built in one swoop and not in stages.

Cllr An­drew Mould­ing, coun­cil­lor for Axmin­ster town, said: “This is a sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward for Axmin­ster as traf­fic is get­ting worse and worse through the nar­row streets, and 57 per cent of the traf­fic go­ing through Axmin­ster is head­ing east and doesn’t need to go any­where near the town.

The north/south re­lief road is a key item of in­fra­struc­ture and it is my view and the view of most peo­ple in Axmin­ster that the road should be de­liv­ered in full from the out­set, and if we don’t get on with it, could lose the fund­ing.”

Ed Free­man, ser­vice lead for plan­ning strat­egy and de­vel­op­ment man­age­ment, told the cabi­net that the £10m of HIF money had to be spent by March 2021, so any de­lay in pro­gress­ing the road meant the coun­cil ran the risk of los­ing the money.

Cllr Ian Hall, ward mem­ber for Axmin­ster ru­ral, added: “The for­ward de­liv­ery is im­per­a­tive and will un­lock the se­vere con­ges­tion we en­dure, and en­sure HGVs never blight the town on a daily ba­sis. This will re­duce pol­lu­tion and un­lock the town cen­tre so we can push on with the re­gen­er­a­tion of Axmin­ster, have the po­ten­tial for some pedes­trian- isa­tion, and at­tract far more in­ward in­vest­ment.

“This is the right de­ci­sion for so many rea­sons, the one op­por­tu­nity to get the show on the road. Any other de­ci­sion would be de­press­ing and would mean more grid­lock while the road’s be­ing built.”

Cllr Paul Di­viani sup­ported the scheme, say­ing: “I have known Axmin­ster since 1987 and it has al­ways been an awk­ward town to drive through. This is a long-awaited im­prove­ment.”

Cllr Ian Thomas, leader of the coun­cil, added: “It is so im­por­tant that we don’t de­lay or we could lose that money. There would be ma­jor, ma­jor is­sues if we ended up with half a road and ma­jor prob­lems if we had the road to nowhere.”

The re­port of Mr Free­man added that the coun­cil de­liv­er­ing the road in its en­tirety from the start of this project, us­ing the £10m HIF fund­ing they have suc­cess­fully bid for and bor­row­ing the short­fall, was the only real­is­tic and vi­able means of de­liv­er­ing the re­lief road and do­ing it in good time to de­liver the ben­e­fits for the com­mu­nity of Axmin­ster.

He added that the coun­cil, along­side Devon County Coun­cil and High­ways Eng­land, are look­ing at how the new link road would con­nect to the A35 and im­prove the bot­tle­neck over Wey­croft Bridge which is a sin­gle-lane road.

The cabi­net unan­i­mously agreed to:

con­sider the progress that is be­ing made to­wards the de­liv­ery of the Axmin­ster Re­lief Road and ur­ban ex­ten­sion

agree in prin­ci­ple to bor­row­ing the short­fall in fund­ing for the re­lief road (cur­rently es­ti­mated at £6.7 mil­lion) on the ba­sis that this would be re­paid through de­vel­oper con­tri­bu­tions

agree that de­tailed ar­range­ments be agreed with Devon County Coun­cil for EDDC to work in part­ner­ship with DCC on the fu­ture ten­der of a con­tract for the con­struc­tion of the road, over­sight of the con­struc­tion works etc,

agree that a de­tailed pro­posal be com­piled with a pro­gramme for the bor­row­ing and re­pay­ment of funds, to be pre­sented to mem­bers at a fu­ture meet­ing.

Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter ‘This is the right de­ci­sion for so many rea­sons’

Cllr Ian Hall


Aerial view of Axmin­ster – the pro­posed re­lief road would run to the East of the town

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