Herefordshire Council’s Cabinet will receive a report on the Hereford City Centre Transport Package at its meeting next Thursday.
Construction on the City Link Road has been completed, providing improved access to the Railway Station and an alternative to travelling through the city centre. The City Link Road and the land acquired through Compulsory Purchase Orders has released sites which were landlocked and inaccessible. This has supported the creation of a modern new GP Health Centre and a new student’s Hall of Residence (opening September 2021).
The developed package was estimated at £40.651m, with funding of £16m confirmed by the Marches LEP. Current spend on the project is £34.042m, with some land purchase costs yet to be agreed, and the new Transport Hub at the Railway station and improvements for walking, cycling and public transport along Commercial Road, Blueschool Street and Newmarket Street yet to be delivered. There is insufficient budget to complete the proposed projects, due to increased spend on the City Link Road area. This is due to additional land costs of £5.115m which were originally budgeted at £11.135 and which have so far cost £16.250m. Increased land costs are due to the unbudgeted purchase of additional land, additional costs of individual land plots acquired using Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) powers and professional fees associated with land acquisition.
Chief Executive, Paul Walker said: “While the City Link Road has brought clear benefits to the city and county, I am concerned about the way the costs have escalated with an apparent lack of governance, and the way these costs have been communicated to residents and councillors throughout the project. All decisions recommended to councillors should be transparent, understandable and demonstrate value for money for local residents. Since my arrival, I have noticed a need for increased focus on performance and project management across the council. I will be requesting an independent audit into the HCCTP spend to understand why costs have increased and would like to apologise to residents and councillors for management and communication failures throughout this project.”
It is proposed that a further costing is undertaken and funding identified for the remaining projects to ensure the complete program can be delivered and the full benefits realised for residents, and the required outputs are achieved for the Marches LEP funding requirements. There will also be a full and thorough review of spending to understand events that have led to the increased spend.