Cash boost for vital infrastructure moves step closer

Local authorities in Somerset have welcomed news that the first step of an ambitious bid for government cash to improve local infrastructure has been successful.

Today’s announcement from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government means Somerset County Council’s application for ‘forward funding’ under the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) will progress to the next stage.

The HIF bid is for £83 million to fund new highways, schools, cycle routes and flood defences in Taunton Deane and Sedgemoor. This should accelerate the delivery of approximately 17,600 houses in development sites which are already approved but not yet built.

‘Forward funding’ supports the upfront funding of strategic and high-impact infrastructure projects to kickstart housing delivery.

Councillor David Fothergill, Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “We all know there is a need for new housing in Somerset and most communities tell us they support growth but only when suitable infrastructure is in place – particularly roads and schools.

“This cash would be hugely welcome by allowing the key infrastructure we need to be delivered upfront. Today’s announcement that we’ve been shortlisted is fantastic news and we’ll be working hard to fight our corner and secure the funding.”

Councillor John Williams, Leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council, said: “This is excellent news for all involved in the bid submission and shows that by working together we can achieve results. Our Garden Town ambitions offer huge potential for Taunton – and the wider Borough.

“Sustainable growth and development is a key priority for us in Taunton Deane and we, as a council, are investing a total of £16.6m to help pump-prime projects. We have already been very successful in attracting Government funding towards delivering our ambitions so we will watch the progress of this joint bid with considerable interest and excitement.”

Councillor Duncan McGinty, Leader of Sedgemoor District Council said: “This first stage acceptance of the joint bid is an encouraging indication that the government recognises this area as a ‘growth hub’ for the UK economy and I welcome this extremely positive news.”

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This Government is committed to working with communities to build the homes this country needs and ensure the right infrastructure is in place to support them.

“We will now be working closely with 45 areas shortlisted to apply for government investment including Somerset. These key projects will help unlock more much needed homes by delivering the roads, schools and doctor’s surgeries that communities need.”

The HIF bid now progresses into a ‘co-development’ phase with government officials working with Somerset to further advance the bids before final funding decisions are made. The department proposes to announce the successful bids from autumn 2018.

Today’s news is in addition to the successful Marginal Viability Bids for Somerset which were announced by the government earlier this year. These included the Staplegrove Spine Road, East Bridgwater Spine Road and Thorne Lane Brimsmore highways access.

What’s included

Somerset County Council has put forward a programme of infrastructure schemes across Taunton and Bridgwater that will enable planned housing developments to be accelerated. The programme will be agreed in detail through the next stage of discussion with Government. Housing Infrastructure Fund will be used alongside a range of other funding sources to deliver essential infrastructure which includes:

  • Highway access and development spine roads which will directly access planned housing areas;
  • Schools which will be located within the new housing areas (sufficient funding to deliver three schools is being sought);
  • On-site drainage infrastructure within new development areas;
  • Essential off-site infrastructure to minimise the congestion impacts of new development areas; including localised highway improvements, cycle routes and improved pedestrian facilities;
  • The first phase of an A38 bus priority corridor (enhancing the existing roads to provide faster bus journeys and better passenger facilities) linking new development at Monkton Heathfield with Taunton town centre to reduce the car journeys associated with new development;
  • Contributions towards strategic flood management solutions which will protect existing housing and areas of new housing development.