Infrastructure board agrees to allow delay in Chelmsford Beaulieu Park funding

Money to help build a railway station in Chelmsford will not be spent until 2025, after it was agreed it could be delayed by three years from what would normally be expected.

The Beaulieu Park project was awarded £12million local growth funding by South East Local Enterprise Partnership in February 2019 – providing a part contribution towards the £164.8million total project cost.

Under normal spending rules the SELEP money would normally have to be spent by 2023, but this has been delayed given the construction timeframes.

A new railway station at Beaulieu is being delivered along with a North East Bypass of Chelmsford, with nearly £218million in funding from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund, plus £34million of other funding from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership and developer Countryside Zest.

The existing A130 between the Boreham Interchange and the A131 was originally built in the 1980s. It needs to be fit for purpose, particularly as Chelmsford continues to grow, catering for increased walking, cycling and public transport.

The new 8km bypass, running between the A131 and the A12 at Boreham, will help provide this, bypassing residential areas and relieving high levels of traffic congestion in Chelmsford.

Chelmsford station, meanwhile, is the busiest two platform station outside London, with 8.5 million passenger trips per year.

The new Beaulieu station, at the southern end of the North East Chelmsford Garden Community, on the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) from London to Norwich, will relieve crowding at Chelmsford.

It will also act as a transport interchange to encourage sustainable travel by bus, cycle, electric vehicles and on foot.

The Housing Infrastructure Fund money in the current spending pot should normally be spent by the end of 2023/24.

But as this is not feasible – the project itself is not due to complete until March 2026 – formal approval will be sought from the Treasury to extend the spend to March 2025.

As a result of the need to maximise the spend earlier in the project programme, Essex County Council (ECC) has brought forward a request for the money to be spent at the tail-end of the project, between March 2025 and December 2025.

Leader David Finch said at a SELEP meeting last week: “The reason for the change in timescale for the scheme is not down to anything that the city council or indeed ECC has done.

“This in combination with the railway company and therefore most of the delay if not all the delay is caused by them and the national rail planning route to connect to the mainline railway.

“We support the decision, this is a critical important station that serves a significant number of housing developments in the area – it’s an additional 6,500 houses to be built in addition to the substantial number in place there.

“This is critical to the wellbeing of the city and indeed to the residents of that area that they can move smoothly from their homes to London.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter