Council leaders have insisted the M49 ghost junction hoax is not their fault, having approved forced land sales to finally resolve it. But an opposition councilor in south Gloucestershire criticized the debacle, saying it was “highly suspicious” that landlords could buy “rescue strips” to make money from the local authority, although there is no indication that anything was done. crime.
Cabinet members agreed to the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) and gave officials the green light to continue negotiations to purchase a patchwork of parcels of land, vacant land, shoulders, drains and access rights, some as small as two square metres, belonging to various organizations and companies, including two based in Jersey. The motorway junction was built by Highways England, now National Highways, for £40 million to £50 million. Land sales are required to link it to the local road network via a new 160-metre highway, which will link nearby giant industrial estates and distribution centers including Amazon, Lidl and Tesco.
The roundabout between Chittening and Severn Beach is currently unusable as terrain issues were not resolved before it was completed in 2020, meaning trucks have to take long detours and clog minor roads. A report to council’s cabinet on Friday 10 February said it was “highly unlikely” the scheme could be completed without a CPO, not least as ownership of one of the plots is not registered.
Read more: M49 ghost junction debacle near Bristol will end when owners are forced to sell
National Highways is covering the additional costs of £7m for the local authority to purchase the land and complete the project, for which a planning application was recently submitted. Yate North District Liberal Democrat Opposition Director Mike Drew told the meeting: “I still don’t understand who made the decision to go ahead with this crossing without first acquiring the land.
“Whose fault is it? I guess it’s not this advice, but it could be, so who is? It seems very fishy that we have all these different landlords with little pieces of land that seem to have somehow jumped at the chance to buy these ransom strips and make money off of us.
“I suspect that the value of the land after the buyout assessment will be more than the amount of money people paid for it in the first place. Someone has to learn some lessons from this because it seems that if some people are thinking of putting a big infrastructure project up and running, like a highway junction, then there is a chance that people will buy land there and then maintain the highways, the government, authority, anyone who rescues.
“So I would like to know what lessons have been learned from this, who should have learned the lessons.” Council leader Conservative Cllr Toby Savage said it was not the fault of the local authority, which first stepped in in October 2021 to promote the link road by securing financing and land acquisition.
He said: “We carry nothing but the determination to solve a problem that is not of our making and that is why we have agreed to intervene and why today is an incredibly important stage in being able to solve a problem that should not have happened. But we want to deal with it to unlock the benefits that crossing will have for our communities and our economy.”
Conservative Cabinet member for environment, regeneration and strategic infrastructure Cllr Steve Reade said: “This administration is committed to building this link road. He asked the council to step in in 2021 to get the project off the ground and I’m delighted to see how far we’ve come since then.
“The new link road will help alleviate congestion on local roads and bring significant benefits to communities in South Gloucestershire. Since the desire is to build the road as quickly as possible, we need to secure the land in a timely manner, so the use of CPOs may be required if negotiations with the owners break down for any reason.
“We want to continue with the negotiations. The council continues to work closely with all landowners to secure the land.” A council official said the land prices were assessed by an independent appraiser and any compensation costs would be covered by the plan’s budget.
He said: “There is a long history to this and we will examine what steps have been taken throughout that history by various different partners.” The highway could finally open to drivers in November 2024, though any objections by property owners to a CPO would require a public inquiry, in which case work likely wouldn’t start until August next year and be completed 12 to 18 months later. possibly until 2026.
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