Warning over rising costs of £61.4m M1/A6 link road

Ward councillors probe potential for significantly increased costs over M1/A6 link road project – with no more government funding due

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 16th June 2022, 5:38 pm

A warning over the potential impact of rising costs on Central Bedfordshire Council’s £61.4m M1/A6 link road project has been issued by two Independent ward councillors.

The 2.75-mile route is situated on 170 acres of greenbelt land between junction 11a of the motorway and the A6 Barton Road.

The local authority’s executive was considering a recommendation to adopt compulsory purchase orders (CPO) under the Highways Act 1980.

Map of the link road route

Agreements have been put in place over certain areas of land around the site, just north of Luton, but some have elapsed now.

Describing it as a “highly unpopular road”, Independent Toddington councillor Mary Walsh said: “My main concern is cost and what quality we arrive at over the green bridges as costs inevitably grow.

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“Department for Transport (DfT) funding was approved in October and £28.75m paid in March 2022. Whatever has happened to this road, the cost has remained static at £61.4m.

“We’ve seen already an unexplained increased funding allocation in the capital budget from £47m in 2021/22 to £51m in this financial year.

“What’s the final cost estimate the council can spend, including legal fees, given there’ll be no increase in funding from the DfT?” she inquired.

“What will be the impact on the provision of affordable housing on the site?”

Independent Toddington councillor Silvia Collins asked: “Are current costs still predicted to be £61.5m?

“It looks like we’ve missed the Dft deadline to commit the local growth fund allocation, so has that been extended? Where are we now with our preferred contractor?

“Will we need to retender and how will that fit in with the DfT deadline?” she wondered. “And what’s our position regarding agreements with Prologis and the consortium?

“Has time to reclaim forward funding been agreed? What are the consequences if we miss our deadlines because our partners in this are failing to deliver on promises they made?”

Conservative council leader and Arlesey councillor Richard Wenham replied: “I feel we may be straying on to commercial issues with some of your questions.”

The executive was asked to delegate authority to senior officers to obtain any parcels of land required to deliver the M1/A6 link road, with the necessary documentation.

Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno said: “In April 2021, the executive approved a CPO to buy a small plot of unregistered land to avoid uncertainty of ownership.

“At the time, it was expected all the other land would be provided by the council or through third parties via a series of complex and comprehensive agreements and contracts.

“These are no longer fully suitable with the passing of time. To ensure the link road is delivered in its entirety it may be necessary to use CPO powers to acquire all of the land.

“The CPO powers provide CBC with a fallback position,” added councillor Dalgarno, who’s the executive member for community services.

“Should agreement be reached with landowners to acquire land by private negotiation, that land would remain within the CPO until talks are concluded.”

After councillor Wenham, who chairs the executive, took advice from CBC’s monitoring officer, the meeting went into private session.