Leicestershire County Council’s cabinet decided it was too risky for the authority to pay £13million up front towards the £28million cost of the road because there was no adequate masterplan in place for its outlay to be recouped from developer contributions from housing due to be built in the coming years.
Melton Borough Council had approved a masterplan only on Wednesday - including provisions for more than 2,000 homes and three new schools on a strip of land between Kirby Lane and the planned south section of the bypass - but county councillors said this was inadequate and not detailed enough for them to risk releasing the funds for the road.
As a consequence of that decision, the county council have decided not to take up promised government funding for the remaining £15million cost of the south bypass link.
Councillor Byron Rhodes, member for Belvoir, told this afternoon’s meeting, that the borough council’s masterplan was not detailed enough in terms of the cost of the infrastructure needed in the south of Melton and on how the money could be sufficiently paid back by developers.
He said he reluctantly agreed that it was too risky for the county council to pay the money up front and that the promised government funds should not be accepted either.
Councillor Rhodes, who was involved in initial plans for a Melton bypass several years ago when he served on the borough council, added: “All discussions have taken place between the county council and the borough council and the landowners and developers have not been involved.
“We needed to have agreement from all parties to go ahead with this.”
Chris Tambini, director of corporate resources at County Hall, told the meeting that the authority would need to pay around £100million up front for the Melton partial bypass - also known as the Melton Mowbray Distributor Road (MMDR) - for infrastructure such as roads and schools.
He said: “This is a very, very siginificant risk to the county council.
“I’ve not seen this scale of development anywhere else in the 20 years I’ve worked for the council.”
Council leader Nick Rushton added: “We need to send a message out that the county council cannot subsidise development.
“If it is not viable it should not be built.
“To expect the rest of the county to take on this expenditure on behalf of Melton Mowbray is unfair.”
Melton Borough Council leader Joe Orson said he was ‘hugely frustrated and disappointed’ by the decision taken by Leicestershire County Council’s cabinet this afternoon.
Councillor Orson denied his council’s masterplan was inadequate and said the authority could not have done more to satisfy County Hall that it could confidently invest in the southern section of the road.
After today’s meeting, he said: “The county council’s decision to turn this funding down feels like a massive opportunity missed.
“I recognise their financial challenge but they simply need to take responsibility for their own decision rather than seeking to blame the borough council.
“Melton Borough Council have done everything that has been asked of us.
Councillor Orson pointed out that the borough council had already secured over £16million for road and education infrastructure from developers and have made commitments to secure the remaining funding the county council requires.
He said Melton Council had offered to work with the county council, Homes England and the developers to agree a way forward but that County Hall refused.
“We have worked tirelessly to create a credible and robust masterplan, which the county council’s own portfolio holder for finance and resources acknowledges was ‘good and interesting’,” he added.
“We have gone above and beyond what has been asked of us, but the idea that we could provide guaranteed funding to the county council is frankly nonsense and no masterplan, and no planning authority could ever give such a guarantee.
“We will continue to work with the developers and county council as we have been to secure the necessary infrastructure for Melton, but for now, the county council just need to accept this is their decision and they have to live with it.”
Funding remains in place for the north and east sections of the MMDR, with work due to start next summer and take around two years.
Alternative funding will now need to be sought for a southern link and it may now not be built at the same times as the rest of the road.