Report of the Chief Executive
Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Climate Change, MCI, Economic Development, Heritage, Arts, Tourism and Health & Wellbeing presented a report which provided an update on the progress of the Future Chippenham programme since the Council decision in July 2021 to see an amendment to the Grant Determination Agreement (GDA) with Homes England to fund a programme to the south of Chippenham.
The Cabinet received statements and questions by Maurice Evans, Nick Parry, Clive Blackman, Brian Miller, Richard Curr and Dr Tony Wright in relation to this agenda item. A copy of the questions and responses are available to read in agenda supplement 1 on the Council’s website here.
Supplementary questions were asked by Clive Blackman in relation to the calculation of the need for 4050 homes and reasons for the cost of the complete scheme exceeding original estimates. The Leader and officers explained that the 4050 homes referred to in reports and responses to questions are the maximum that the southern road has the ability to unlock (this may not be the same number as the need for homes) and the cost of delivering the infrastructure has increased since the original estimates were produced and this is an issue being experienced by the majority of Local Authorities involved with HIF bids.
The Leader and officers highlighted the work undertaken following Counsel advice, with an additional holding submission to Homes England, subject to the confirmation of HIF funding and the Local Plan review. Cabinet noted that estimated costs of the southern distributor road exceeded the £75m HIF funding contained in the original GDA. As this and associated works would be at risk and at significant cost to the Council without an agreed revised GDA, officers recommended that the work is paused until a revised GDA is agreed.
The report detailed the outcome of a recent judicial review of the Cabinet decision from July 2021 sought by a member of the public and supported by the Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Southern Chippenham. The QC considering the claim held that the claimant had not established any grounds for challenge and the claim failed. The claimant was currently seeking permission to appeal the Judgement on one of the three grounds of Challenge.
Cllr Jerry Kunkler, Chairman of the Environment Select Committee, confirmed that he had received a briefing on 11 July 2022. Cllr Kunkler welcomed the update and asked officers to provide a further update to the Select Committee later in the year. Cllr Kunkler confirmed that he endorsed the proposals contained in the report.
Cllr Ian Thorn commented on the options detailed in the legal opinion, with officers confirming that incurring further expense at risk without agreement to a revised GDA placed unacceptable risk on the Council and pausing further design work subject to reaching agreement on a revised GDA, at this stage in the process is the appropriate course of action for the Council to take.
Reason for decision:
Following the Cabinet’s decision in July 2021 to seek a revision to the GDA with Homes England to support a southern only road route and development proposals, discussions have been taking place with Homes England. During this period the Council has continued design work in good faith but at risk.
The availability period for HIF funding to be defrayed by March 2025 means that procurement of road and associated design and investigatory work needs to be commissioned now so that subject to the Local plan review the Council can proceed with the scheme.
Incurring further expense at risk without agreement to a revised GDA places unacceptable risk on the Council. Hence the report seeks authority to pause that work and seek a resolution to a revised GDA before proceeding any further with the Future Chippenham programme