How can Link Road ever be afforded?

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FOLLOWING recent correspondence on this, it’s hard to believe that anyone who has actually walked in Combe Haven can think that its irreversible destruction is not worth worrying about, or that anyone who has given the economic arguments for this road even a passing scrutiny can be unaware of their weaknesses, which the Department for Transport still continues to record, despite the Treasury giving it conditional funding.

What is not debatable is the money the Link Road scheme has, and will, cost council taxpayers. The road will cost £86 million, at minimum. The Government’s absolute limit is £56 million – a hefty sum in such times as these, but well short of the true total.

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) is therefore undertaking to fund the following: - the remaining £30 million of the current estimate for the link road itself, plus the new road required to join the link road to its proposed development (conservatively, about £20 million), plus every complementary measure required as a result of the road (which will be many when the transferred traffic begins to bite on The Ridge and Gillsman’s Hill), plus additional environmental and public transport measures demanded by Government, plus every single overrun or unexpected cost.

Bear in mind that the scheme, now estimated at £86 million, was originally estimated at a modest £24 million, and so has increased in estimated cost by a disturbing 258 per cent, and add to all this the approximate £15 million spent already by ESCC towards the scheme, an alarming picture emerges.

So, perhaps, as local elections approach, voters might like to ask candidates and sitting councillors (many of whom are also ESCC councillors or, if not, belong to the same political parties as them) how this open-ended commitment will be financed and what has been and will be sacrificed to it.

They could ask for details as to how, in ESCC’s own words ‘the local authority contribution will be prioritised and allocated from current and projected medium term resources available’.

They might ask why, if the scheme is such a sure fire winner with such overwhelming business support, as ESCC claims, there are ‘no plans to rely on income or third party contributions’.

On which note, one of the Government’s conditions for its share of the funding is that ESCC must provide progress reports of developer interest in the out-of-town housing and employment land. At the last time of asking, not one single developer/employer had given any commitment.

GILLIAN BARGERY

Wishing Tree Residents’ Association