A huge revamp of an M27 junction to serve a new Hampshire town with 6,000 homes is in doubt as the county won’t be getting any extra government cash to do the work.
No further funding is expected from National Highways or the Department of Transport (DfT) to “help” the council bridge the financial gap of the Welborne junction 10 since it “does not provide any benefit” for the M27, county chiefs said.
If the decision is made to withdraw from the project, one councillor said it would take the county backwards.
A recent report revealed that Hampshire County Council was ringing alarm bells over the project, saying it was “extremely unlikely” to meet the cost of the new junction 10 for Welborne unless further support was given from stakeholders.
As part of the new town of Welborne that is set to be built on fields north of the M27, between Fareham and Wickham, junction 10 on the M27 would be extended to an ‘all ways’ junction because the current layout only allows drivers to join the M27 eastbound – towards Portsmouth – and leave it westbound.
However, the report indicated that Hampshire County Council, as the delivery body for the junction 10, won’t have enough funding to go ahead with the project which would help serve the new development with 6,000 new homes, schools, shops, green spaces, businesses and healthcare facilities.
During the county council cabinet meeting yesterday, Tim Morton, assistant director of highways and transport, told members it was unlikely both organisations would provide further funding for the project as it would provide “very little benefit to the strategic road network.”
He said: “We had conversations with both organisations, and they both indicated that they are not willing to further support the project financially, other than the emergency refuge area that National Highways will fund.
“That doesn’t preclude us from continuing in dialogue with the Department of Transport and National Highways, should the need arise in the new year.”
The assistant director explained that the “very little benefit” he refers to was about the fact that there is already an M27 junction 10 where drivers can exit westbound and enter eastbound, but the new one would allow moves in both directions.
It was said that National Highways and the DfT “don’t need an improved junction 10” as it is “working satisfactorily” already.
Mr Morton added: “Having said that, the new junction will provide some benefits to the strategic road network because it will take pressure off of junction 11.
“There is a benefit to both the strategic network and our own network, but unfortunately, that argument hasn’t landed with the Department of Transport.”
The leader of Fareham Borough Council, councillor Sean Woodward Woodward, showed his support on any cabinet decision to withdraw from the project if required, but with some assurances for Fareham council and residents.
Councillor Woodward said: “The county council is fortunate to benefit from the £41 million government grant, which was made to the Fareham Borough Council passport to Hampshire to deliver the scheme. I like to see assurance as well; should we withdraw from the scheme, there would be no flow back to substantial grant funding, which is already being paid over.
“I support the recommendation that the cabinet take any decision to withdraw from the role of the delivery body; however, make no mistake, this would be a huge decision from Hampshire County Council as it would terminate the vital economic contribution that Welborne Garden Village is currently on cost to deliver.
“Any decision to withdraw from the M27 junction 10 scheme would take us backwards in terms of securing growth and prosperity.
“The county council is also set to benefit significantly from the development of Welborne from over £60 million in development funding from our own services improving highways infrastructure, cycleways, pedestrian network, new schools – one secondary and three primaries, not to mention the council tax contribution of 6,000 new homes.”
He added that his borough council is doing “all it can” to proceed with the project and said that secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities Michael Gove also agreed to “take whatever it takes” to ensure the delivery of Welborne.
If funds get sought, and final approval is received along with a letter giving the county council authority to execute the works on the strategic road network, the council’s director of corporate operations will undertake the end-of-stage cost review and agree that the county council should proceed into the construction phase as the delivery body.