We reported the angry responses to yesterday’s news that Leicestershire County Council no longer wishes to accept a £15million government grant towards the £28million cost of building a southern link to the Melton Mowbray Distributor Road (MMDR).
The county say it cannot afford to forward fund the £55million it would need to pay out for schools and infrastructure as part of the south section development and blamed Melton Borough Council for not putting proper plans in place to ensure it could recoup the outlay in contributions from developers building homes in that part of town and for not offering to shoulder the cost up front.
The borough council was shocked by the decision, which is expected to be ratified at a county council meeting on Tuesday, and immediately called on it to honour its responsibilities as the highways authority to make sure the road is delivered.
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Melton yesterday launched an online petition asking for residents to give their support with more than 600 people having already signed it.
And all of the other five district councils in Leicestershire have also now thrown their weight behind the borough’s council’s campaign by sending a joint letter to County Hall urging it to accept the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) funding.
Leaders of the councils - Terry Richardson (Blaby), Jonathan Morgan (Charnwood), Phil King (Harborough), Stuart Bray (Hinckley and Bosworth) and John Boyce (Oadby and Wigston) - say in their letter that the county council’s stance is ‘completely unacceptable’ and damages Leicestershire’s reputation.
“Instead of taking responsibility, as the highways authority, for failing to secure the HIF money that you bid for, you are seeking to transfer blame to a borough council that has a budget 100 times smaller than your own,” their letter states.
“This is completely unacceptable and whilst it may be Melton today, it will be the other districts in time and we stand united in saying this is unacceptable and no way to secure the infrastructure needed.
“Furthermore, your approach is doing serious damage to Leicestershire’s reputation and potentially our ability to secure funding in the future.”
The letter adds: “We know funding infrastructure is difficult and expensive.
“We know there are significant financial risks and a lot is at stake.
“That is why we have repeatedly called on you to work with the districts in a collaborative way.
“It is not appropriate or reasonable to expect districts to pick up the bill for things you are legally responsible for.
“Nor can you expect us to enter into unreasonable agreements that are potentially unlawful, as the approach advocated in the proposed Infrastructure Policy could well be.
“As local planning authorities we are delivering time and again for our communities.
“It is now up to the County Council to accept its own responsibilities and find ways to deliver the required infrastructure.”
MP, Mrs Kearns said yesterday that she was ‘aghast’ at the county council’s declared intention to refuse the southern link funding and she has now written to leader Nick Rushton and chief executive John Sinnott calling on them to accept the money.
She points out in the letter that the south section, which would connect the A606 Burton Road with the A607 Leicester Road, was included in the Melton Local Plan and the proposed 1,500-home Melton South Sustainable Neighbourhood.
The MP also insists that the borough council should not be expected to forward fund any of the scheme since it’s budget is dwarfed by that of County Hall and it is not the local authority for transport.
Mrs Kearns writes: “I accept that the county council has many responsibilities and commitments across the county.
“I further accept that these very real pressures, in light of the pandemic in particular, may mean the council is wary of taking on further financial obligations.
“However, I do not accept that rejection of the HIF grant is the right decision for Melton or for Leicestershire.”
She adds: “I believe we can come back together as local authorities and build a better future for all of Leicestershire, and that starts with the county council accepting the HIF bid and working in true partnership with the borough council.
“I am committed to continuing to work with you, Melton Borough Council, Homes England and central government to ensure that Meltonians and, indeed, everyone in Leicestershire get the benefits from this vital piece of infrastructure.
“It is not too late. I urge you and your cabinet to accept the HIF funding and deliver for the people of Melton on your promises and the needs of our communities.”
The funding and planning permission is already in place for the north and east sections of the £63.5million MMDR and it is expected to open to traffic in the early summer of 2024.
It was hoped the south section would be built at the same time, although funding and planning approval are still required.
Go to http://chng.it/hbWZKv6Crv to complete the borough council’s online petition calling on County Hall to accept the southern link funding.