Limbo for £124m Luton Airport access road through Wigmore Valley Park

A new road into London Luton Airport is struggling to get off the ground over the way £124m of taxpayers’ money is spent on the project, it has emerged.

Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 2:21 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 2:25 pm

The route, which involves building over part of Wigmore Valley Park, “unnecessarily blights 20 per cent of the town”, a councillor has claimed previously.

It appears Luton Borough Council is struggling to present a financial case for the Century Park access road.

The cracks began to appear in August when the outline business case was presented, in private, to the local authority’s scrutiny finance review group.

The planned access route

The agenda item was chaired by Liberal Democrat group leader and Barnfield councillor David Franks, as Conservative group leader John Young, who chairs the committee, declared an interest.

The group advised the council’s executive that it was unable to recommend the outline business case or the financial arrangements outlined within the report.

The decision forced the executive committee to delay its consideration of the planned investment until it could do more work to make the business case stand up to examination.

The executive was due to approve the financial arrangements in November, confirming that the council could justify the expenditure and the necessary borrowing.

A new date of January 13th 2020 was set for the decision, but last month it was decided to further delay confirmation of council funding for the scheme until February 3rd.

But it was announced this week (Tues 14th) that the scheme and its business case will not be considered by the executive next month, and will be delayed yet again.

The reason given is “to allow more detailed work to be carried out to support the proposed investment”, according to councillor Franks.

“They obviously have still not been able to make a business case to justify the expenditure of £124m of taxpayers’ money,” he said.

“This is the new road development with which the council plans to concrete over Wigmore Valley Park.

“The business case for this £124m scheme was drawn up to justify the council borrowing to finance the new road.

“The review group looked at the funding package in detail last summer and rejected it as completely inadequate.”

The access road would be built off a new roundabout on the A1081.

London Luton Airport Limited’s proposed timetable suggested: “Subject to planning approval being received, work on improvements to Wigmore Valley Park could begin during 2020.

“Work on the road could begin in 2021, and conclude in 2022.

“Commercial development would be brought forward in two phases.

“All of the building work and the replacement public open space would be within the borough of Luton.”

A council spokesman said: “Further work and considerations are required before a report on Century Park access road can be taken to members to make a decision.”