TAX PAYERS are to foot the bill for the rising cost of building the link road which has rocketed by more than £13 million since the original budget was set.
A report presented to East Sussex County Council (ESCC) on Wednesday (July 10), by director of economy, transport and environment Rupert Clubb, shows construction costs were up by around £4.5 million, while costs associated with the anti-road building protests came to around £2.7 million.
A further £6 million is to be set aside for expected future costs.
The latest estimate of the total cost of the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (BHLR) scheme is £113.46 million, and the additional £13.35 million needed is to come from the council’s capital programme money, earmarked for large scale projects.
Keith Glazier, leader of ESCC, said: “With a scheme of this size costs do rise and we’ve had to try and plan this scheme against a background of planning stages, legal challenges, public inquiry and then funding confirmation.
“We’re also funding full environmental mitigation measures and footing the security costs of any protester action - all of which add millions to the final bill.
“We hope the protesters will now end their action and recognise that this road has been approved at every stage of a democratic process. We hope they will recognise that the road will help boost the economy of one of the most deprived areas of the south east.” The council claims that the road will open up 50,000 square metres of business space, and lead to 3,500 jobs and 2,000 new homes.
Preliminary work on the link road began in December last year and was met with weeks of protest, with campaigners setting up camp and taking to the trees.
Anti-link road campaigners have condemned the increase in costs.
Emily Johns, of the Combe Haven Defenders, said, “We said from the very beginning that the costs of the link road would spiral upwards very rapidly, and unfortunately we have been proved to be right. It is shocking that the county council is prepared to throw more and more money at this road to nowhere.”
Tomorrow (Saturday, July 13), a National Rally Against Road-building will take place in the Combe Valley, organised by the Road to Nowhere Campaign, the Combe Haven Defenders and the Hastings Alliance.
The large-scale event has the support of many local and national groups including Greenpeace, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), CPRE Sussex, BLINKRR - Bexhill Link Road Resistance, Crowhurst Road to Nowhere Action Group, Friends of the Earth, and the Wildlife Trusts and RSPB.
Derrick Coffee, of the Hastings Alliance, said: “Now, the question ‘What else could we do with that sum of money?’ becomes more and more pressing as in a period of cuts to services, we move closer to, and surely will pass, the £120 million mark to be spent on this road.
“More and more people are questioning the wisdom of this expensive, destructive and irrelevant road scheme, and the July 13 rally at Crowhurst recreation ground is expected to be very well attended by those opposing the Link Road, as well as the coalition government’s move on a massive scale to a discredited, destructive and costly national road building spree.
‘The £13 million increase alone could fund a new station at Glyne Gap, help secure evening bus services for Hastings and Bexhill, and expand ‘greenways’ for cycling and walking. It’s time to call a halt to this wasteful scheme.”
The scheme is currently two weeks behind schedule, as a result of weather delays affecting the translocation of protected species, and has a revised completion date of May 2015.
Hastings MP Amber Rudd, a supporter of the link road, said: “Of course I hate costs going up but as long as this still represents value for money, that is what is important.
“Let’s watch every penny, but let’s get it built.”