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