Councils and businesses ‘should reach A14 funding target’


A14 - Credit: Archant

POLITICIANS in Cambridgeshire are confident that councils and business leaders across the East of England will between them commit to contributing at least £100million over 20 years to major improvements to the A14.

The £.15bn scheme – hastily ditched in October 2010 to save money and hurriedly restored to the strategic roads programme last year when Ministers realised it was crucial to Britain’s economic recovery – involves widening between Fen Drayton and Fen Ditton and a new six-lane southern bypass of Huntingdon and Godmanchester.

As a face-saver for Chancellor George Osborne, who abandoned it as part of his first strategic spending review on October 20, 2010, because the price looked ‘unaffordable’, the new scheme is required to be part-tolled and to need third-party contributions of £100m-150m over 20 years.

With a fair wind, work on it could start in 2017, with the road fully open three years later.

Cambridgeshire County Council and Huntingdonshire and South Cambridgeshire District Councils, all of which are geographically affected by the upgrade, have all committed to the principle of contributing to the cost of the upgrade.

Cambridge City Council has so far refused on the grounds, it claims, that upgrading the A14 would put more money ??? on the city’s streets.

Quite what mechanism would achieve that when the city is virtually gridlocked at peak times, is not explained.

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It is also a surprising view to take in a city that has more workers than residents.

Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce has told the city council that it should withdraw from the Greater Cambridge, Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) if it is not willing to stump up some cash.

But, with the upgrade seen as a key component of the local regional and national economies, the LEP has promised to chip in £50m, and councils across not just Cambridgeshire but a wide area of Eastern England and East Midlands, including Peterborough, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, which also stand to benefit, are being asked to help.

Cambridgeshire, where officials are this week in ‘purdah’ because of Thursday’s county council elections, would say only that it was “having positive talks with authorities along the route”.

But Councillor Jason Ablewhite, executive leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, which has no such constraints, said HDC was “110 per cent behind the project, because it’s not just about growth but also the resilience of our existing businesses and the benefit to residents .”

He said the principle of local authorities’ part-funding national government projects was well established in the area of flood defences, adding: “We will all benefit from the A14 being done. So will the Government and the country. And Cambridge city needs to grow a backbone.”