By way of update on our progress on the Towcester Relief Road following a meeting I held earlier today, I wanted to let you know where we are on three key areas: (1) agreement on the delivery date, (2) forward funding the early delivery, and (3) removing non-local HGVs from the town centre.
It was a productive discussion across all three areas, although there is still work to be done. Highways England, the District and County Councils, Northants Highways, the developers Persimmon, and I spent nearly two hours talking through action points from our last meeting in September and working to agree a way forward that achieves the three goals. We will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding to that effect before the end of the year.
On the date, we are all agreed that our shared aim is for the TRR to open by December 2020. This is about 12-18 months of detailed design work, and a further 18-24 months of construction, so the pressure is really on to get going as soon as possible.
On funding, I am clear that the developer must make their full agreed contribution to pay for the road. To bring its delivery forward to 2020, ahead of the 1016th house being sold, they do however need a sum of money to cover their upfront costs. We are exploring ways to do this, but it would be a loan that the developer would repay.
The ongoing issue is that of how to take HGVs out of the town centre. I am determined that our key priority is to ensure that the TRR is fit for the future and will deliver on solving our traffic and air pollution problems. Northants County Council, Northants Highways and South Northants District Council are in complete agreement with me, but there are some technical points that Highways England need to clarify for us. My main point is that the road needs to be built to trunk road standard, and the main quibble at the moment seems to be the depth of the road's foundations; the width is fine. Sorting this out remains a priority for me, as well as for local residents.
I will be providing a more detailed update before the end of the year, and I realise this may frustrate residents who want the road built yesterday (as do I!), but the various Councils and I are doing all we can to achieve our shared goal.