With 48 hours to spare, Herefordshire Council has released its ‘Economic Viability Assessment’, dated June 2011, for consideration by Cabinet on 28th July.On the basis of the financial calculations in this latest report for the Council, a community poll on a ‘relief road’ would be a waste of taxpayers’ money. The report shows that, assuming the road is in the Infrastructure Plan to support the housing growth agenda, the Council have over a £100million shortfall.
The Economic Assessment states the following:-
“4.7 Herefordshire Council has identified an emerging infrastructure package within its Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP). The IDP sets out local and strategic infrastructure requirements for Herefordshire, how much is anticipated to be levied from development through planning contributions and what is anticipated by way of public funding or other private sector investment. The IDP also provides an indication of when infrastructure is required within five year periods to the end of the plan period (now extended to 2031).
4.8 The latest draft of the IDP set a total infrastructure requirement of over £560m over the plan period….These requirements include a wide range of items including, for example, transport schemes, education, health and utilities provision….It is expected that development will contribute around £355m. “
The difference between the £560m needed and the developer contributions indicates a shortfall of £205million.(£560m – £355m).
The report shows that under new Government rules that Herefordshire could use funding from the New Homes Bonus
“2.28 … Herefordshire could attract around £31m for the first five years worth of completed housing (grant would be received from 2011-2022 for the first years completions). Grant over the plan period and the following six years could amount to over £100m funding from the New Homes Bonus. However this is only an illustration and should therefore be treated with caution.
2.29 It should also be noted that none of this money will be ring fenced for a particular use and it will be at the discretion of the council as to how much of the New Homes Bonus is used to support new infrastructure.” (At the moment the £660,000 of New Homes Bonus is used to fund day to day expenses and services supplied by the Council and so these could be cut in the future if the money is needed for capital projects).”
Even if the New Homes Bonus was to be used entirely for capital infrastructure, this would still leave a shortfall of £105 million to be found elsewhere by Herefordshire Council.
However, the Economic Development Strategy which also goes to Cabinet tomorrow, and is an integral part of the planning process for the future of the county, there is a different opportunity and future for Herefordshire (page 18)
‘With a heritage base on the land and a growing range of eco-companies, Herefordshire has the potential of creating a unique selling point based on sustainability principles”.
Many national and government agencies have previously asked Herefordshire Council to prepare an alternative plan for the future of Herefordshire which takes into account the difficulties with supplying fresh water, sewerage, health and other basic necessities to future generations, and instead to build on the heritage and landscape of the County. Let’s hope that councillors tomorrow will consider the important comments made by their own reports.