Chelmsford bypass £91m contract signed off

Works worth £91million to build a new bypass for a project to build 14,000 new homes between Chelmsford and Braintree have been signed-off.

But problems with traffic being caught behind slow moving lorries could be avoided if money was spent on the new Chelmsford north east bypass from the off, Essex County Council heard.

The comments were made as the county council signed off for procurement for the main £91m bypass works contract via Crown Commercial Services at the cabinet meeting on April 19.

It also signed off on works for a conveyor bridge necessary to maintain quarrying operations at Bulls Lodge Quarry to the south, which is currently operated by Hanson Quarry Products Europe Ltd.

But councillor Mike Mackrory, leader of the Lib Dem group at Essex County Council, said the bypass is likely to have to be widened within a decade of the road being finished – only the section of the A131 between Deres Bridge Roundabout and the new roundabout at Chatham Green will be dualled in the first phase of works.

Phase 2 will increase the number of traffic lanes to provide a dual carriageway between Chatham Green and the new Boreham Interchange however current traffic assessments suggest that phase 2 will not be required until after 2036.

That most of its length will be single carriageway will mean queues are likely to build up being HGVs using the bypass with little opportunity for overtaking, Cllr Mackrory said.

It is anticipated that a bulk of the any cost to widen the bypass will fall to developers involved in the garden suburb planned to the north of Chelmsford.

Cllr Mackrory said: “This particular scheme is a disappointment compared to the one originally introduced which was for a dual carriageway the entire length and linking straight onto the A12 without the current proposal of four roundabouts before you actually get from the A12 to the new bypass.

“And although it says within the report that this is based on traffic volumes anticipated up until 2036, although that sounds quite a long way away in reality if this road is finished and completed by 2025 that means within 10 years we’re going to be starting all over again in widening.

“It’s frustrating that we can’t actually get these things right from the off. I do understand the treasury doesn’t want to spend the money straight off and wants to get the developers to pay for the for the eventual widening but I think it’s a great shame because that traffic is going to be restricted by the slowest HGVs making their way along that bypass.

“If it’s a single carriageway there won’t be the opportunity to overtake.”

The planning permission for the bypass was approved by Essex County Council’s Development and Regulation Committee on March 25. Essex County Council has said before the start of construction of the new bypass it needs to secure ownership of the relevant land.

Councillor Lesley Wagland, cabinet member for economic renewal, infrastructure and planning said: “The transport modeling is very comfortable with the single carriageway.

“The indications are that that will meet the requirements in relation to the modeled traffic volumes going forward.”

Councillor John Spence (Cons, Chelmer) said: “All of us could see why we would quite like to do the dual carriageway now but given that government funding was not forthcoming I think it was entirely right to proceed on this basis.

“And I’d like to say that I know my residents while quite rightly being frustrated that more work may be required in a decade’s time will be very pleased when this road is created thus removing pressures.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter