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LETTER TO LANCASTER GUARDIAN
8 MAY 2013
It is a bit rich of the Heysham-M6 Link project manager to claim that TSLM’s legal challenge will delay the project and increase costs, since Lancashire County Council has been in denial ever since early 2009 that any of the numerous delays, largely brought about by the Council’s own actions, have had any effect on the scheme cost.
In February 2009, when the scheme was accepted into the government’s programme of local authority roads, Lancashire was anticipating a start before March 2010. The Council tried to make the Road Orders (compulsory purchase etc) in May 2009, at which point the projected start date was October 2010: but they got it wrong and had to resubmit. By October 2009 the start date was back to April 2011. All this is documented in emails between me and the Department for Transport. Miraculously, at no point in this succession of delays did the scheme cost change.
Because of the delay in issuing Orders, the Orders Inquiry which had been anticipated for March 2010 was delayed until October 2010, and it is solely because of this delay that the scheme fell foul of the Comprehensive Spending Review in May 2010. The scheme had to be revised, and the total cost had to be reduced but the Council’s share of capital costs almost doubled from £6.4 million to £12.3 million. At the time of the ‘Best and Final Bid’ in January 2011 the start date had gone back again, to October 2012, but because of anomalies in the way inflation was handled there was something like a £7 million shortfall in what was needed for the inflation allowance to tally with an autumn 2012 start date.
Since then, surprise surprise, autumn 2012 has come and gone, and the latest implausible start date is summer 2013: yet there has been no allowance whatsoever for this latest 9 months – and counting – deferral of the start date.
I contend that a proper accounting for inflation since 2009 adds at least £10 million to scheme costs, and other anomalies could add another £5 million. Any additional costs will be borne entirely by Lancashire County Council, so the £12.3 million could easily double again. I do hope that the Council is not going to try and blame these historic cost increases on objectors seeking legal scrutiny of a scheme that they have been advised has several legal shortcomings.
I wonder how many Lancashire council tax payers, not to mention councillors, are aware that the Council already has a £6.5 million ‘additional risk’ contingency allocated to the Heysham-M6 Link. Equally, I wonder how many know that the entire Council contribution to this road at the time of the Best and Final Bid was coming out of the transport block grant from government for transport projects throughout Lancashire, so is funding that at a time of severe funding cuts is being diverted from other schemes in other areas of Lancashire, to go to one short, useless, and exorbitantly expensive road in one small bit of the county.
TRANSPORT SOLUTIONS FOR LANCASTER & MORECAMBE
PRESS AND MEDIA RELEASE 30TH APRIL 2013
Campaign Group challenges Link Road decision
On Monday 29 April, local campaign group Transport Solutions (TSLM) (1) lodged a legal challenge to the decision to approve the Heysham M6 Link Road.
The challenge is based on 5 grounds, where legal advice is that the decision was wrong in law.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced on 19th March that he had granted approval for the Heysham M6 Link Road. His decision was based on the report from the Planning Inspectorate’s Peter Robottom, following the Examination in Lancaster Town Hall in the summer of last year.
“The decision was a great disappointment to opponents of this controversial project,” said David Gate, Chair of TSLM. “It is the wrong solution to the district’s transport problems. But we have sought legal advice, and that advice is that the decision is wrong in law, too. The consensus opinion is that there are 5 very substantial grounds on which the decision should be challenged, ranging from incorrect treatment of European nature conservation designations to the fact that the scheme is not and never was a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. These areas of concern call into question the legality of the decision made by the Transport Secretary.” (3)
TSLM has already had many pledges of financial support for such a Review, and that support makes the challenge a viable one.
“There is still so much opposition to this damaging scheme.” said Mr Gate, “We owe it to the many people who have objected strongly to follow the legal advice we are receiving.”
TSLM is not undertaking the legal action lightly and is applying for an order (2) to cap the amount of money it would have to pay if the case were lost.
David Gate concluded: “Judging by the reaction to the decision to go-ahead, there are thousands of people who find that decision perverse and ill-founded on transport, environmental and economic grounds. The decision should be tested, and our challenge will test it.”
ENDS – 321 WORDS
The grounds of the challenge are:
1) The scheme is not a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, under the Planning Act, so should not have been dealt with by IPC/NID.
2) Consultation was inadequate because LCC ruled out discussion of the principle of the scheme and the route chosen.
3) National Policy Statements on Ports and Nuclear Power were used to justify the scheme, but were not relevant in the absence of any definite plans.
4) The Western Route was wrongly dismissed, without going through the appropriate procedures.
5) LCC failed to carry out surveys of otters, a European Protected Species, as they were legally obliged to do, so failed to assess potential harm to them.
Watch the animated fly through of the Heysham M6 link road as of Jan 2012---it is beautiful..