Going cap in hand to fund Lincolnshire's roads as second phase of Grantham relief road starts
“The reality is whenever we want to build anything in Lincolnshire we need national support,” said the senior county councillor in charge of highways as the next phase of a multi-million pound relief road was unveiled in Grantham.
It was a stark reminder of how fragile an idea for a new road project can be.
In just two weeks the county has seen an £81 million scheme take a further step in Grantham, but another placed on the shelf in Horncastle.
Residents in the latter had been calling for a bypass for years and local MP Victoria Atkins raised the issue in 2016.
The town centre becomes a bottleneck as drivers, often venturing to Skegness or the coast, cars pile up bumper-to-bumper on the A158.
But, council officials have struggled to find funding for the scheme. Coun Richard Davies, the authority’s highways chief, said it was “unfortunate” that the scheme had to be put on hold.
County council officials stressed that it doesn’t mean that the town will never get a bypass.
But, it shows a problem that raises its head at any local authority.
Councils table plans with the best intentions and then hit a wall when it comes to financing the project or realise that the evidence for the plan does not stack up.
This can be best demonstrated in Perth, Scotland, where both cases came to light on proposals to upgrade the A9 slip road.
Known locally as the Stewart Tower Road, Perth and Kinross Council had proposed spending £750,000 dualling the narrow road in order to relieve congestion.
But, in July last year, authority officials removed the programme after they said the impact on “future traffic remains unclear” and that the money set aside for the plan was “likely to be insufficient”.
In Lincolnshire a range of projects are hoped to reach a conclusion, albeit with some delayed or over budget, such as Lincoln’s Eastern Bypass.
But others, both in the county and elsewhere, fall victim to a lack of national support.
Horncastle’s bypass may live to see the light of day another time, but at the moment the plan is sitting on a shelf inside county head offices.
The highways authority says the third and final phase of Grantham's relief road could start next year while construction of the second phase is under way. This will include building a bridge over the East Coast railway line. It will take about three years to build the third section which will take the new road to the roundabout at the top of Somerby Hill.