Building full length of Chelmsford bypass put in doubt

The full length of Chelmsford’s multi-million pound bypass will not have to be built – leaving in question how 14,000 homes planned to the north of the city will be delivered.

Homes England – the government body responsible for funding infrastructure to support housing – has agreed with Essex County Council that the whole length of the Chelmsford north east bypass does not have to be built in order for the council to fix financial problems arisen due to increased building costs of the city’s new station.

Homes England’s £218m of funding for a new railway station at Beaulieu Park and a new north eastern bypass, running from the A12 to Great Leighs was contingent for both projects being delivered under a Grant Determination Agreement.

However, Essex County Council was told it was in default from Homes England in October 2022 due to funding escalations of £15.9m for the new station at Beaulieu – Homes England have agreed to increase grant award by £7.5m but it means Essex County Council will have to fund £8.4m of the remaining amount needed.

However, the increased costs have left Essex County Council in default with Homes England. Homes England said it will now accept Essex County Council proposals to rectify the default by phasing the delivery Chelmsford North East Bypass – with the first phase, Section 1A, being delivered by 2026.

But while Essex County Council says it is committed to completing the full length it means the remainder will not have to built. This had led to how well up to 14,000 homes can be delivered between Chelmsford and Braintree.

The full road scheme plan comprises a new 4.6km single carriageway – Sections 1A and 1B – and dualling of a 1.2km stretch of the A131 (referred to as Section 2). The single carriageway section is split into a southern section (Section 1A) and a northern section (Section 1B).

These two sections will meet at an intermediate roundabout which will connect the bypass with a proposed new Northern Radial Distributor Road (NRDR).

The NRDR will be a new east-west road which will be delivered by the developer consortium as part of the Chelmsford Garden Community and will link Essex Regiment Way in the west with Chelmsford North East Bypass to the east.

However the under agreement to remedy the default on the GDA means Essex County Council will now be required to deliver Section 1A of the bypass by March 2026 alongside the opening of BPS in 2025. Together these schemes will directly unlock 6,000 homes.

The remainder of the bypass is expected to then be completed with the benefit of future developer contributions of which a significant amount has already been secured in principle.

Essex County Council says this is the only pragmatic way forward that ensures value for money for taxpayers while ensuring that the required infrastructure is delivered to accommodate the impact of currently planned and future growth within the area.

However it admits the revised approach to delivering the bypass will potentially impact on the planning of allocated housing sites and the delivery of the wider 14,000 homes it was meant to support – including the Chelmsford Garden Community.

It adds in a decision statement agreed on July 28: “While under this approach Essex County Council will not be required to deliver the later stages of the bypass, completion of the full bypass is recognised by Essex County Council and Chelmsford City Council as the key infrastructure project to support continued sustainable growth north of Chelmsford.

“Essex County Council will continue to work actively with Chelmsford City Council, Braintree District Council and developers to determine how and when the full scheme can be delivered as soon as practicable as well as reducing impacts on allocated housing sites.”

Essex County Council adds that until a new agreement has been signed with Homes England, it will remain in default and will not be able to draw down further funding from Homes England to cover the expenditure it has outlaid on both the station and bypass. It will also need to meet the cost of the new station and bypass until formal rectification of the default.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter