Reporting Person – Giorgio Framalicco
The Executive received a report which provided an update on the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) project and identified a number of key issues and actions in relation to the delivery of the project. Councillor Forster, Deputy Leader, stated that the new administration was concerned about the scale of the budget deficit, risks to the Council and potential significant road closure involved in the proposed Victoria Arch widening scheme. Councillor Forster highlighted the detrimental effect that a significant road closure of 2½ years would have on residents and the Town Centre economy, noting the challenges set out in the MTFS discussed earlier in the meeting.
The Executive heard that Officers would work up a more viable scheme as part of the proposed review, with particular consideration to pedestrian and cycle access.
Councillor Kemp, Shadow Portfolio Holder for Key Projects, drew attention to the HIF grant, the objective of which was the replacement of the arch to unlock housing sites in the Town Centre, and the potential funding consequences if infrastructure was reduced. The Executive was advised that the Council was in regular discussion with Homes England and had fully briefed Homes England on the Council’s position to secure a Masterplan.
The Executive was supportive of the submission of planning applications which sought to secure temporary access to the aggregates yard from York Road, and the use of the current access to the yard from Guildford Road as a permanent access.
The Executive welcomed the report and agreed to undertake a fundamental review and pause on certain workstreams until there was a viable project that could be delivered without additional expense to the Council. An update on the review of the project would be received by the Executive by the end of the calendar year.
That (i) the commitment made by the Council and its partners to deliver a replacement bridge project and the risks accepted by the Council in its agreement with Homes England and that significant work has been progressed to date on the project, be noted;
(ii) the additional costs associated with the current designed project based on land acquisitions, utility costs, bridge and highway costs and inflation meaning that further and substantial Government funding is needed before further significant expenditure can be undertaken which would be at the Council’s risk, be noted;
(iii) the need for the continuation of high level meetings with Homes England and through them with key partners at the Department for Transport and Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in order to secure additional funding for the project be supported;
(iv) given the likely exposure and scale of risk in committing to further expenditure at this stage, a fundamental review of the project be undertaken in order to:
a. Conclude discussions on the availability of additional funding to meet the current project design;
b. Review with partners other design options to reduce the overall costs of the project including any proposals which remove the need to lower the road and / or reduce the road from a dual carriageway to a single carriageway;
c. Ensure that any redesigned options meet with value for money requirements and achieve sufficient environmental and community benefits envisaged from the project;
d. To support a project review to be undertaken by Surrey County Council on our behalf. The scope is to consider the appropriateness of current budget, risks inherent with works cost estimate and delivery strategy given current project uncertainties and identified funding shortfall. The review is envisaged as an activity that will add value to the project’s delivery strategy. Where cost and budget pressures are identified possible mitigations will be suggested where practical.
(v) in order to fully understand more about the project costs, the results from the investigatory works following the closure of the bridge in June be reviewed in detail alongside outcomes from the closure, including impact on traffic movements;
(vi) the planning applications be submitted which seeks to secure a temporary access to the aggregates yard from York Road and the use of the current access to the yard from Guildford Road as a permanent access; and
(vii) an update on the review of the project be presented to the Executive by the end of the calendar year.
Reason: In order to undertake a review of the project to assess financial risks and opportunities to the Council in progressing with delivering the Housing Infrastructure Fund project, considering whether there are any alternatives and seek risk sharing with project partners.