Friday, 4 October 2013

Councillors To “Fight Residents' Corner” As A14 Consultation Response Agreed

Councillors in South Cambridgeshire have pledged to fight for the best deal for local people on the A14 and have said today (Friday 4 October) that in principle the Government should look to national funding rather than tolls and local contributions as the first option to tackle the blighted road.

In a Cabinet meeting to discuss South Cambridgeshire District Council’s response to the Highway Agency’s consultation on the £1.5 billion plans, leading councillors unanimously supported plans for the upgrade as it is “desperately needed”.

Despite being against tolling and local funding, Cabinet Members said at the meeting that it is likely to be the “only deal in town” to get the nationally and internationally important road upgraded.

If the Government maintain tolls and local funding are necessary to make sure the upgrade happens, councillors have said today that they will request that all vehicles, with the exception of HGV’s, registered in South Cambridgeshire to be exempt from paying to travel on the tolled road.

As a minimum, councillors have said they will fight for South Cambridgeshire residents to be given a reduced cost annual pass. This is similar to the deal recently agreed for the Dartford crossing in Kent where from March 2014 residents will have unlimited annual journeys across for just £20.

These steps have been called for as the Council would be required to contribute to the upgrade.

Cllr Ray Manning, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “We desperately need action on the A14 and are pleased the Government has listened to the councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships in the region who have been campaigning for some time. Anyone who travels on the road on a daily basis will tell you how badly the upgrade is needed due to the tailbacks and accidents they face that are costing lives and our economy millions of pounds each year. If tolls and local funding is the only deal in town then we must support it to make sure the upgrade takes place, but we are clear that we will fight our residents’ corner and will be telling the Government that the national problem should be fixed with national finances.”

If local contributions are a requirement to secure the A14 upgrade then councillors have said that future national grants, such as new homes bonus, would be used rather than money from local council taxpayers. These grants can only be secured by unlocking much needed new jobs and homes at locations such as Northstowe by upgrading the A14.

Meetings of Cabinet and Full Council will consider a local contribution toward the A14 upgrade in November as part of the Council’s medium term financial strategy so no delays take place if they are required.

In the Council’s response they will also ask for any toll to be capped for its duration and removed once the upgrade has been paid for.

The Government’s current proposals for the A14 upgrade would see a finance package of national funding, tolling and around £100 million from a group of Councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships in the region.

The District Council’s full response will include:
-       The importance of addressing improvements to the A14 as soon as possible.
-       Improvements to the A14 are necessary in order to deliver new jobs, the growth agenda, improve journey times and safety.
-       National funding should be the first option to pay for the upgrade rather than tolling and local contributions.
-       Vehicles registered in South Cambridgeshire, with the exception of HGV’s, should be exempt from the tolls if they are included in the final scheme. As a minimum, residents should only pay a fixed reduced annual fee for unlimited use.
-       An objection to the alternative route (option 6) for the A14 utilising the A428/A1198.
-       Consideration to improving capacity on the A428 between Caxton Gibbet and the A1, which is also a priority.
-       Local access road must be included and good provision for cycling, walking and horse riders along the route.
-       Generally accepting the west facing slips, with emergency eastern emergency slips, at the A1198 but will ask the Highways Agency to make sure this junction is needed.
-       Support for the retention of the existing over bridge at Bar Hill for non-motorised users.
-       Request the Highways Agency continue to work with the District and County Council, and where appropriate the Homes and Communities Agency, regarding access to Northstowe
-       Support better connections for Lolworth to improve safety.
-       Consideration to a link between the A428 and M11 at the Girton Interchange should be given. Alternatively the A1303 should be upgraded to accommodate trunk road traffic.
-       Consideration to improvements to the Histon and Milton junctions should be given to improve safety for cyclists and accommodate traffic from the proposed Waterbeach new town.
-       The upgrade should consider planned growth in adopted and submission Local Plans.