South Ribble link road cost soars

The cost of the cross-borough link road connecting Penwortham and Walton-le-Dale in South Ribble has ballooned by £900,000, according to the housebuilder footing the bill for the project.

Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 8:19 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 8:22 pm
South Ribble's cross-borough link road, looking towards Penwortham

The figure emerged after Morris Homes was refused permission to reduce a separate financial contribution towards other promised improvements in the area, which – like the new road itself – were part of the conditions of a planning agreement for the construction of almost 300 new properties on the former gasworks site in Lostock Hall.

The final price tag for the connecting route and associated bridge now stands at £2.7m.

The road was due to open over a year ago, but has been dogged by delays caused by land ownership issues and snagging work.

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A new 'toucan' crossing is being installed on Carrwood Road where the Old Tramway cycle path emerges - only then will the long-awaited cross-borough link be opened

July has now been set as the latest in a long line of proposed opening dates – with the most recent hold-up coming after the road became the focus of safety concerns amongst residents on the Walton-le-Dale side of the route.

A campaign built up calling for safety features along Carrwood Road – including a traffic light-controlled crossing close to the Old Tramway cycle track – to be completed before the new route was opened. Lancashire County Council is currently installing the facility, having already widened and extended footpaths along the road.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that the safety measures do not form part of the additional costs of the cross-borough link and are being funded from a separate pot of developer cash accrued from other housebuilding in the area.

As part of the gasworks site development – now known as St. Mary’s Park – Morris Homes is obliged to make its own contribution to just such a pot, designed to deliver other improvements in the locality. These include the provision of playing pitches and allotments, together with the installation of speed bumps on Leyland Road and an upgrade to the roundabout at the junction of Carrwood Road and the A6.

Under the agreement, dating back to 2013, the developer is due to pay out just over £557,000 to South Ribble Borough Council, as part of a so-called “section 106” agreement.

However, Morris Homes last year submitted a viability assessment – triggered by the increase in the £1.8m cost originally envisaged for the link road. That assessment, carried out by a third party, concluded that there was now a “negative residual land value” of £935,000 on the project and calculated that the section 106 contribution should be slashed to just over £37,000 in order to maintain the same level of viability as was the case seven years ago.

However, the authority’s own commissioned review of that calculation found that it was “simplistic” and that greater profit was to be generated by the developer than had been predicted in 2013 – making the firm no worse off financially. The request to cut the additional contribution was refused by the borough council.

If the two parties are unable to come to an agreement, an independent expert may be called in to make a final ruling.

A spokesperson for Morris Homes said that the viability assessment was “a requirement of the section 106 agreement and is not a renegotiation”.

“Morris has expended over £2.7m on the link road, as opposed to the originally envisaged £1.86m.”

South Ribble Borough Council was approached for comment.