Committee Report NSC

 

North Somerset Council

 

REPORT TO THE STRATEGIC PLANNING Planning and Economic Development Policy &AND Scrutiny Panel

 

Date of Meeting: 1 September 2008

 

Subject of Report: Weston package PHASE 1 MAJOR SCHEME Bid

 

Town or parish: Weston-super-Mare

 

Officer/Member presenting: colin medus, head of transport policy and programme

 

Key Decision: yes

 

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

That Members:

1.      note the progress being made on the Weston Package Phase 1 Major Scheme Bid;

2.      comment on the composition of the Package; and

3.      subject to (2), recommend to the Executive the submission of  Weston Package Phase 1 Major Transport Scheme Bid to the Department of Transport in January 2009.

 

1.                Summary of Report

 

The Joint Local Transport Plan contains the major scheme[1] programme for the sub-region.  There are 5 schemes wholly or partly in North Somerset that are programmed for implementation before 2016, one of which is the Weston Package Phase 1.  These schemes are independent of the Transport Innovation Fund bid and associated schemes.

 

In respect of the Weston Package Phase 1, this report:

·        updates Members on the development of the Package;

·        provides an overview of the transport schemes that form the Package;

·        provides information on the arrangements put in place to obtain the views of Members, the public and businesses; and

·        provides a project timetable.

 


2.                Policy

 

The Joint Local Transport Plan [JLTP] commits North Somerset Council [NSC] to delivering 5 major schemes over the period to 2016, one of which is the Weston Package Phase 1 [WP1].

 

Improving transport is a key theme identified in the Community Strategy and a key corporate priority identified in the Corporate Plan. In addition, sustainable communities and transport is a key theme of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA).

 

WP1 is identified as a regional priority for implementation by 2016 in Table 1 of the South West Regional Funding Allocation [RFA].

 

3.                Details

Background

The Regional Spatial Strategy allocates significant employment-led redevelopment to Weston-super-Mare from 2011 to 2026.  The main objective of WP1 is to support the Council’s strategy to promote employment development, in advance of new housing, to increase the town’s self-containment. 

The transport needs for the further redevelopment of Weston could not be provided solely from the annual funding allocations from the Joint Local Transport plan nor from developer contributions.  Hence, the Package seeks additional capital funds from the Department for Transport [DfT] to provide infrastructure improvements.

The council has to submit a Major Scheme Business Case [MSBC] to the DfT.  The content of a MSBC is wholly prescribed by the DfT and requires a comprehensive appraisal of a scheme to determine its value for money[2] and impact on the environment, wider economy, safety, accessibility and integration.

Package Components

A review of a potential of improvements has been undertaken and a short list prepared that meets the objectives of WP1 and the DfT’s criteria (for MSBC).  The short-listed schemes have been costed and their operational performance and value for money modelled.  The short-listed schemes are described below and shown on the appended plan.

M5 Junction 21

Congestion at M5 Junction 21 is a significant barrier to movement and is a deterrent to businesses moving to Weston.  WP1 would include capacity improvements to the southbound off-slip, together with increased capacity through the roundabout by the provision of 3 lanes and traffic signals; this scheme would reduce queues in the PM peak and is supported by the Highways Agency because it would reduce queuing back onto the M5 itself and is consistent with the Regional Transport Strategy.  It should be noted that WP1 does not include proposals to address the outbound queue in the morning peak; this is because the Highways Agency does not support proposals that increase capacity onto the M5 and its support is a prerequisite.


Worle Station

Improvements to Worle station include a new car park on the south side of the station (either side of the new footpath access viato Diamond Batch), bus stops in the north- and south-side car parks, together with improved cycle and motorcycle facilities and passenger facilities.  WP1 itself cannot deliver additional trains services or lengthened platforms, and the DfT has made it clear that justification of the WP1 must be made within the existing timetable.  However, the Halcrow ‘Worle Station Enhancement’ study concluded that it was possible for some 29 additional trains to stop at Worle under the existing weekday timetable and within the service capacity available on the line.  Eighteen of these are Cross Country trains which do not currently have access rights to Worle station.  Cross Country has not shown an interest in stopping at Worle under the current franchise.  In December 2007, subsequent to the Halcrow report being produced, FGW included a stop at Worle station on some existing inter-city train services, through the use of ‘selective door opening’. 

 

The number of trains using the Bristol / Weston routes, including those stopping at Worle has been set as part of DfT’s contract with the operators.  Equally the number of coaches used by the rail companies on any route is dependant on the availability of rolling stock, and pressures on the services.  Both are outside NSC’s control, but lobbying by NSC, both by the Executive Member and oOfficers, continues and is an essential part of the contract renewal negotiation process

Access routes to/from the station would be improved, including a bus-only link along the old alignment of Queensway (by MacDonald’s) to help buses get to the station from the Sainsbury’s terminus together with improved access from the south via Elmham Way.

An improved Worle station would not be a substitute for Weston-super-Mare station, it would be additional; in fact, the railway industry is investing in re-doubling Worle Junction in 2009 to enhance capacity on the Weston Loop line to Weston-super-Mare.

 

Park and Ride

A review of five possible bus-based Park and Ride sites to serve the Town Centre identified two options: one south of the A370 Morrisons roundabout and one southeast of the A370/A371 Airport roundabout (the latter being the preferred location).  The success of a Park and Ride would be dependent on future parking provision and pricing policy in the Town Centre.   Park and Ride would beis aimed at providing an alternative for long-stay parking for town centre visitors and commuters.  However, its success as a year round service available for commuters would beis dependant on stricter controls for on-street parking than exist at present.  A charging scheme to manage the use of town centre spaces for short-stay use could be achieved under existing powers available to the authority.  However, managing long-stay parking over a much wider area within the town centre is much more difficult to achieve without taking on Civil Parking Enforcement powers

At the time of writing, further testing is being undertaken to determine whether Park and Ride would be commercially viable in the medium- to long-term.  In the short-term, it would probably require financial support; this funding would be sought from developer contributions and, hence, included in WP1. 

Bus Services

A new ‘showcase’ limited stop bus service linking the Town Centre, the Gateway (Marchfields Road/Winterstoke Road west area), Weston Airfield, the new Park and Ride site and Worle station is proposed.  Links would also be provided to the Locking Parklands redevelopment site.  The commercial viability of this service has to be demonstrated, but like Park and Ride, it would require financial support at its inception; this funding would also be sought from developer contributions.

 

Cross-Airfield Link (CAL)

The showcase bus service would use the CAL, which is expected to be delivered by the Airfield development.  If left to the developer, the timetable for completion of the CAL would be too slow to complement WP1; therefore, a parallel bid to the Regional Infrastructure Fund[3] will be made to bring forward completion of the CAL.

New Railway Crossing

A new bridge linking the CAL and Winterstoke Road via the Avoncrest site would be used by general traffic, the showcase bus route, cyclists and pedestrians.  This new bridge would be secured via WP1 and not through a condition on the adjacent development sites; however, the land required in each site and a financial contribution towards the bridge would be sought from these developments.  The potential developments would therefore not be constrained by the need to actually deliver the bridge, only to facilitate its construction in the event of a successful WP1 bid.

Weston Gateway

The existing one-way system through the Gateway would be replaced by widening Marchfields Way to provide 2 general traffic lanes in each direction with appropriate facilities for cyclists and pedestrians (especially bearing in mind the proximity of Wyvern School).  Winterstoke Road would become a local access route, serving frontage properties and Searle Crescent only; through traffic would be prevented.  A new roundabout would be required at the junction of Marchfields Way/Winterstoke Road (adjacent to the Gasworks    site); Winterstoke Road roundabout would be modified to accommodate traffic arriving from Marchfields Way.

Timetable

It is proposed to submit a report to the Executive in December 2008, which will seek permission to submit the WP1 MSBC to DfT in January 2009.  Once a MSBC is submitted, there is a 3 stage preparatory process before DfT releases funds and scheme construction starts, namely:

 

·        Programme Entry, when DfT conditionally agrees to fund a scheme having considered the MSBC (target date is summer 2009);

·        Conditional Approval, when the council has satisfied DfT’s conditions (e.g. obtaining statutory powers such as Compulsory Purchase Orders, planning permission) and updated the MSBC and confirmed the scheme delivery programme (target date autumn 2010); and

·        Full Approval, once the council has all the necessary statutory powers, has tendered for the scheme construction, identified a preferred bidder, completed any post-tender negotiations and updated the scheme appraisal with the final confirmed scheme costs and forecast benefits (target date summer 2011).

 

With Full Approval, scheme construction could start in 2011 and would then continue to completion , which would run until completion in 2015.

 

4.                Consultation

 

The Package has been developed by building on significant previous consultation work through the Weston Vision, the Area Development Framework and the Area Action Plan. Progress on the development of the Package has been presented to the Executive Member through regular briefings and to stakeholders through the Weston Advisory Group (WAG) at its meetings that take place every other month.  A presentation on the Package was given to Members at a bespoke Workshop on 2 July.  A short article will appear in North Somerset Life, published on 1 September, and at the same time, an e-newsletter will be forwarded to local businesses.  Links to web pages giving more details will be provided in both, which will also give opportunities for comments to be made. 

 

 

5.                Financial Implications

Scheme Cost

The total capital cost of WP1 is ~£22m (outturn prices).  Under DfT rules, at least 10% of the total capital cost of a major scheme should be provided ‘locally’, by which DfT means ‘not from its funds’ and so could include contributions from developers, as well as local authorities.  A secured local contribution of ~£2.2m is therefore required for WP1; this could be from developer contributions and the Council.  In the event that developer contributions had not been secured at the time of seeking Conditional/Final Approvals, the Council would have to underwrite the local contribution.

 

DfT provides only capital funding for major schemes; if successful, WP1 would add to the Council’s infrastructure assets that would, in time require funding for maintenance.  As stated previously, the proposed Park and Ride/bus services would not be commercially viable on opening and financial support would be required.  This funding would be sought from developer contributions, but the Council would have to underwrite such contributions.

Bid Preparation

To prepare a MSBC requires significant time and financial resources, both in-house and external, through use of specialist consultant support.  The costs of preparing the WP1 MSBC to Programme Entry is forecast at ~£664k, the majority of which has come from the Council and a bespoke grant from SWRDA, with minor contributions from developer funding and the Highways Agency.  DfT does not reimburse the costs of the MSBC to Programme Entry; they are wholly ‘sunk’, regardless of the success or failure of the bid. 

 

Once a successful MSBC has gained Programme Entry, the cost of further preparatory work also has to be born locally.  A ‘rule of thumb’ calculation is to allow 10% of a scheme’s capital cost for the development costs; hence, it is estimated that the total WP1 preparatory costs will be ~£2.0m to 2011, of which £664k has been sunk, leaving a funding requirement of ~£1.35m. 

 

DfT will reimburse up to 50% of ‘eligible’ development costs incurred by a council between Programme Entry and Full Approval.  Claims are submitted with applications for Conditional and/or Full Approval (i.e. they are paid in arrears, so the promoting council has to fund them first); therefore, the Council could be claiming up to ~£675k from DfT in 2010/11.  The balance would count towards the local contribution (i.e. ~£2.2m less ~£675k = ~£1.525m).

 

A report to the Executive in October 2008 will set out the funding requirements for WP1 and the other major transport schemes in North Somerset.

 

6.                RISK MANAGEMENT

 

A risk assessment was undertaken for funding the council’s JLTP major scheme programme, including WP1, which was reported to the Executive in October 2007 and will be refreshed in the aforementioned report to the Executive this coming October.  A bespoke risk register for WP1 has been prepared and maintained.  The main risks to WP1 are that:

 

·        the major developments in Weston do not proceed as expected and that local contributions towards WP1 could not be secured;

·        the bid to the Regional Infrastructure Fund for the CAL fails and the CAL is not completed before 2015;

·        WP1 does not meet DfT’s approval criteria;

·        scheme cost increases;

·        not securing statutory powers; and

·        lack of funding for bid preparations.

 

The current economic downturn has raised the risk level that development will not proceed as was anticipated only a few months previously; the mitigation of this risk is outside the control of the Council and, hence, the likelihood that the Council will have to underwrite the local contribution has increased.

 

The employment areas of the Airfield site and the CAL itself has approval subject to agreement of the Section 106; however, the developer (Persimmon) has not, of late, been engaging with the Council to conclude this agreement (presumably due to the general economic downturn).  Concluding the Section 106 is a necessary prerequisite to the Council’s bid to the Regional Infrastructure Fund for the CAL, which in turn brings forward completion of the CAL to coincide with WP1.  Council officers are attempting to re-engage with Persimmon to expedite the Section 106 and the bid; these will have to be concluded before the DfT would grant Fullinal Approval.

 

The WP1 appraisal work to-date has indicated that it would meet DfT’s criteria in respect of value for money, which is of crucial importance.  There are, unfortunately, many more hurdles to jump, but having a strong value for money case, the support of the Region through the Regional Funding Allocation and following the DfT’s guidance, mitigate the risk that DfT would reject the bid.

 

Scheme cost increases come from inflation; construction inflation rates are higher then the nationally quoted figures.  With inflation, delays to scheme construction increase its cost.  DfT guidance places the risk of major scheme cost increases after Programme Entry on the promoting authority; in other words, the funding granted by DfT would be capped, so the promoting authority would have to either secure funding locally or resubmit the bid.  This will be mitigated by putting more work now into getting robust outturn cost estimates and/or including a higher risk allowance in the bidthis for Programme Entry (although the latter would reduce the value for money of the bid and will be used with caution).

 

Several components of WP1 will require planning consent; those with the highest risk are considered to be the new bridge and the Park and Ride site.  It is considered that consent can be secured for these with appropriate environmental mitigation.  There will be a need to purchase third party land, the largest area being that for the new bridge and the Park and Ride; this could require Compulsory Purchase in the event that negotiation fails.

 

The impacts of a funding shortfall for the preparation of the WP1 preparations major scheme development programme would be serious: work on WP1 would slow or stop; and the South West Regional Assembly could reallocate funds to major schemes elsewhere in the region.  It should also be re-emphasised that a significant proportion of major scheme development costs are sunk; in the event that a major scheme bid were to be delayed, stopped or rejected by DfT, any costs already incurred could become abortive.

 

The risks to the major scheme programme are reviewed annually every autumn, with the report to the Executive in October; the WP1 project board reviews scheme risks quarterly.  A continuous risk assessment process is being adhered to to ensure that risks to delivery of all the scheme elements are fully appreciated. 

 

7.                Equality Implications

 

The MSBC appraisal requires schemes to be assessed in accordance with DfT guidance, which is totally prescriptive.  One (of five) objectives that the appraisal must address is ‘integration’, which includes “integration with policies for education, health and wealth creation, so that transport helps make a fairer, more inclusive society”; another is ‘accessibility’, which includes ease of access to the transport system, facilities and participation in activities.  As the detail of scheme design progresses, the transport infrastructure provided would be compliant with relevant legislative requirements (e.g. DDA) and would not be biased either for or against any members of society. 

 

8.                Corporate Implications

 

Improving transport is a key theme identified in the Community Strategy and a key corporate priority identified in the Corporate Plan. In addition, sustainable communities and transport is a key theme of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA). The Greater Bristol Strategic Transport Study addressed the current and future strategic transport needs. The final report recognises and demonstrates the need for significant investment in the area. 

 

Chapter 10 of the JLTP describes the importance of the major scheme programme for the West of England and shows a timetable for implementation that has fed into the RFA.  Implementing the major schemes would contribute to the JLTP targets that in-turn count towards the council’s LTP capital settlement and CPA score.

 

9.                Options considered

 

The schemes have been developed by considering over 100 possible schemes from a list compiled from a whole range of sources.  WP1 is considered to be a set of schemes that most closely conforms to the rules set by RFA and DfT and therefore most likely to be funded by them.

 

Authors

 

Chris Young, Principal Transport Planning Officer

Alistair Rice, Transport Policy Team Leader

 

Background Papers

 

Local Ttransport Pplan major scheme bids - funding of PREPARATION costs update, Report to the Executive, October 2007.

 

 

 

Appendix

 

Weston Package Phase 1 Overview


Plan removed to reduce size of e-mail.



[1]         The Department for Transport defines a ‘major scheme’ as defined as costing more than £5m.

[2]         DfT judges ‘value for money’ by the Benefit-Cost Ratio [BCR] and seeks values in excess of 2.0; anything less and a bid is likely to be rejected.  This is a very challenging target and carries inherent risk.

[3] Regional Infrastructure Fund grant would be repaid by the Airfield developer at a later date.