£1.2m business grant for new Vauxhall Way junction should be sacrificed, critics say
A £1.2m business grant for a major road project in the east of Luton should be sacrificed by Luton Borough Council to enable the plans to be thoroughly thought through, it has been claimed.
Work is now due to begin on the first phase of improvements to Vauxhall Way and its junctions later this month.
Traffic lights will replace the roundabout at the road’s junction with Stopsley Way and Hitchin Road.
The £4m package of measures also includes the £3.2m dualling of Vauxhall Way.
Part of the development will be paid for by the £1.2m grant from South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP), which has to be used by March 31st.
The scheme began in August, and is due to involve replacing the roundabouts at each junction along Vauxhall Way with traffic lights.
It was stopped after some initial preparation work when residents and local councillors complained they had not been consulted about the proposals.
Two drop-in sessions were hastily arranged by the local authority at venues in the east of Luton.
At a meeting of the council's executive committee on Monday, Liberal Democrat group leader councillor David Franks described the council’s attempt to retain the £1.2m SEMLEP grant as a "dilemma".
He said: “The serious problem here is the project for which you are borrowing the money is not complete.
“There is no landscaping plan and there is a huge problem with the Birchen Grove junction, which nobody seems to have a clue about how to resolve.
“Consequently the fear is that Luton will end up with a worse scheme than if the whole programme had been thought through properly before you started it.
“If that means you lose the £1.2m grant, that’s a relatively small price to pay if end up with a properly thought through ideas which really work.”
Labour South councillor Paul Castleman replied the project has come about through the planned development of the east of Luton and the planning application to grow Luton Airport to 18m passengers annually.
“The other proposal is to compensate for the loss of trees by doubling the level of tree planting by the junction, at Ashcroft Road recreation ground and along Stopsley Way.
“The full landscaping plan is not required as part of this stage of the project.
“There have been seven accidents reported at this junction during the last three years,” added councillor Castleman, who’s the executive member for infrastructure and transport.
“It is the second busiest road after New Airport Way. It’s definitely a busy road and busy junction, and we do need to tackle congestion there.
“The junction improvement works are anticipated to start late in January.”
A 30mph speed limit and average speed cameras are being considered as part of the development.
The council’s overview and scrutiny board was unable, last month, to recommend approval of the scheme in its current form because of a lack of a landscape strategy and no solution to the Birchen Grove junction issue.
But the executive agreed to give the green light to the first phase of works.