A £2million revamp of Hereford’s Commercial Road is next on the slate, once the city’s Link Road is completed, an inquiry into the project heard last week.
A final decision from that inquest will come out in August, but Herefordshire Council has taken several big steps towards breaking ground on the project, last week securing land deals with Royal Mail and Jewson.
Chief financial officer for the council, Peter Robinson, outlined the several smaller projects that go alongside the £26.9m Link Road to form the Hereford City Centre transport package.
The ‘Commercial Road Tree Line Boulevard’, including a central reservation similar to that installed on Newmarket Street, and a ‘Blueschool Street Interchange’ will cost £2m each.
There is also £500,000 earmarked for improvements to the bus system in the city, with upgrades scheduled to stops between the Link Road and bus station.
Funding for these projects is dependent on a bid made to the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, and on New Homes Bonuses paid to the council for building the Urban Village – another project still awaiting an official start date.
This has drawn criticism from It’s Our County who have accused the council of taking a ‘relaxed approach’ to funding the project.
Party leader Anthony Powers said: “The council’s figures on this project simply don’t add up in a way that gives us confidence in the budget for the project and its affordability in these tough times.
“The only breakdown of the financing presented to the inquiry has been in response to questioning and to the inspector’s request for more detailed figures.”
Cllr Powers also raised concerns over the use of the New Homes Bonus.
A grant given by central government for building houses, it is intended to benefit the community it is awarded for, but IOC insist that no public consultation had taken place, and using it to finance the Link Road project presents a narrow view of ‘benefitting the local community’.
However these claims were dismissed directly by Mr Robinson during the inquiry, who insisted that all financial estimates for the project were robust.
He said: “Estimates have been presented on a prudent basis.
“The Link Road will create homes, leisure and business opportunities which will help secure funding of council services in future years.”
Similarly, Mr Robinson said, the eventual development along Blueschool and Catherine Street – an office and residential project referred to loosely as Phase Two – would return more funding.
The inquiry heard that following the Old Market retail quarter development, the council have received a net receipt of £0.4m from developers – after allocating funds to other capital schemes.