The Committee considered a report which sets out the results of long running negotiations with the owners of businesses at Bingswood Industrial Estate in Whaley Bridge, aimed at securing a commitment from the businesses to make a significant contribution to build a new bridge and associated infrastructure to improve access on the estate and to reduce HGV congestion in the town centre. The report advised that following prolonged negotiations, no businesses were willing to make this contribution and without this contribution, state aid rules precluded the use of public sector funding as the sole source of funding. Therefore, the project was undeliverable in its present form prior to the expiry of a critical land option held by the council.
The Executive Councillor advised members that there was a possibility that a bridge could be delivered as a private development by one landowner. It was therefore proposed to close down work on the stalled project and use all available resources to explore the possibility of delivering this more modest option that could deliver a large part of the original goals.
Concern was expressed at the recommendation to close the project, with the view made that the bridge was the best option for opening up the land to extend the industrial estate and creating new jobs in the area. The Executive Member commented that having been involved in the project for many years, it was the best solution, but was now undeliverable in the available time because the unwillingness of the businesses to contribute had prevented access to essential public funding.
It was commented that work should continue with united utilities to prevent the sale of the land for the bridge footing on the south side, the council’s option on which was due to expire by the end of March 2018.
The commitment of DCC and the LEP to the project was discussed, but members were advised that the LEP had made it clear that any public funding must be matched by significant contribution from the private sector beneficiaries, and similarly with DCC. Due to the lack private sector contribution, both bodies had now withdrawn any provisional commitment and there was no money currently allocated in either budget to support a publicly funded project.
It was suggested that negotiations should continue with the businesses, stressing the need to addresses the HGV movements in the town centre which could lead to the re-location of the existing businesses on the industrial estate and the associated costs. It was confirmed that discussions would continue with both the businesses and Town Council.
Reference was made to a recent meeting between Whaley Bridge Town Council and HPBC, which the Executive member was aware of. It was suggested that the businesses were now willing to make a contribution, and the committee were advised that if this was the case then consideration would be given to continuing with the project while also pursuing the other option in tandem, but that it would likely be impossible within the timescales. It was also noted that the projected cost of the meeting was likely to increase when a detailed specification was drawn up.
The possibility of working with a single business owner who wished to acquire the land and erect a private bridge was considered a good option for removing the HGVs from the town centre in the light of the remaining existing businesses not wishing to contribute towards the costs of the bridge.
1. That Council support be switched to assisting individual landowners to bring forward a less ambitious scheme that may at least deliver some improvement to the access issues;
2. That the Council continue to work with existing businesses on the Bingswood estate to facilitate and encourage growth, and to develop resilience to potential disruption which might be caused if the existing bridge fails.