New fund boost for local projects
5:30am Wednesday 26th February 2014 in By Mike Benke, @Michael_Benke
A NEW fund has been set up which could eventually lead to a business case being put forward for the Thamesdown Drive extension.
Using almost £3 million from the £5.1m New Homes Bonus, it’s a special infrastructure fund which will be used to progress major economic projects.
Examples already cited for the fund’s use include the redevelopment of the Cheney Manor Industrial Estate and to put together the best options for the Thamesdown Drive and Barnfield Road link.
However, Labour have said the fund offers no firm commitment to develop a business plan for the road despite its importance to the town.
Earlier this year doubt was cast over whether there was sufficient money available to develop this plan.
The New Homes Bonus is an unassigned fund from the government for building homes. A proposal to use the cash for fixing potholes was rejected at a council meeting on Monday in favour of setting up the new fund.
Coun Dale Heenan (Con, Covingham and Dorcan), the cabinet member for strategic planning and sustainability, said: “The new infrastructure fund will ensure that money is not frittered away on pet political projects but on things that could make a real difference to local residents and businesses in Swindon.
“There are currently about ten options for the extension, ranging from improving Akers Way to a £50 million road.
“The fund will be used to narrow that down to the three best options so we can move forward. Every councillor wants this road. Currently though no one has £50 million available.
“More has been done in the last 18 months on this road than in the last 18 years so it is important we keep that momentum going.
“We will look at ways of securing the future of the Cheney Manor Estate and how it can be regenerated over the next 20, 30 and even 40 years. We will look at how to fill the empty units and maybe improve the network.
“In turn this will improve the business case for the Thamesdown Drive extension.”
Labour put a further proposal to allocate a fund of £200,000 to developing a business case for the new road at Monday’s meeting but it was dismissed as not being enough to solve the problem.
Coun Julian Price (Lab, Covingham and Dorcan) said after the meeting: “What we have been seeing so far is a little bit of pass the parcel with central government saying there is no business case while the council say there is no money so why develop the plan?
“We are worried that the money will be spent in areas with Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors and not in areas which will help the whole town.
“The money may not be available for some time but it is important we make sure when it is available we have the plan ready to go.”
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