COMPANIES moving to three business parks in North Tyneside could be asked to help foot the bill for improvements to a major road junction if government funds are not forthcoming.
Council officials and north east MPs are again calling on the government to rethink its decision to put plans to revamp Wallsend’s Silverlink Roundabout on hold until 2015 at the earliest.
Two possible ways forward are being suggested by Transport Secretary Philip Hammond.
One is to secure so-called section 106 funding in return for granting planning applications made by businesses looking to set up new premises on Silverlink Retail Park, Cobalt Business Park and the Tyne Tunnel Trading Estate. The other is to apply for regional growth fund cash from the proposed new local enterprise partnership.
Work has started on a £2.8m interim scheme at the junction to widen the roads, but an estimated £140m is needed for a long-term solution.
Fears have been raised that the delay could lead to infrastructure damage after both Tyne Tunnels are open next year, potentially increasing the amount of traffic using the A19 and A1058 Coast Road junction.
A delegation made up of North Tyneside mayor Linda Arkley, borough MPs Mary Glindon and Alan Campbell, and South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm met with Mr Hammond to discuss the situation last week.
Afterwards, Mrs Arkley said the 45-minute meeting went “really well” and “was very positive”.
She said: “Mr Hammond said there was 14 major schemes which will be reviewed this year; we are one of them.
“I think it’s definitely on his radar and I intend to pursue the issue because it’s too great for us not to do it.
“He asked if there was any new businesses coming to the North Tyneside area or region who would be willing to put forward money or through their applications, such as Section 106 agreements.
“He did put it to us the regional growth fund bid, saying this was if the north east councils felt it was a major scheme and they all talk with the same voice.”
Mrs Arkley said that there were previous cases of Section 106 funding being used to improve transport infrastructure, such as for the Holystone bypass and roundabout.
She denied reports that existing businesses would have to pay £70m towards the scheme, but admitted those relocating to the area could be asked for a contribution.
“Any (planning applications) that come before the council around Silverlink or Cobalt could allow us to ask for Section 106 money as they would be using the business park,” said Mrs Arkley.
“Anyone coming or building there would want access into the business parks to be acceptable.”
She added: “Overall, Mr Hammond gave us a very fair hearing and allowed us to put our case why we wanted the funding.
“Over the years the A19 has been an economic driver. It’s really important that we try to get things resolved.”
Currently, an estimated 38,000 vehicles a day use the junction, with Mrs Arkley saying that could increase by 40 per cent when both tunnels are open together.
Local politicians fear that without the improvements, the current ‘bottleneck’ of traffic at the Tyne Tunnel will move north to the Silverlink junction, while those south of the river say improvements are more important than any potential scheme in their patch, including at Testo roundabout near Boldon.
But they say the government is making no concessions, instead leaving it to the councils.
Mrs Glindon said: “Mr Hammond told us that as well as giving a clear signal that the Silverlink is a preferred option for a transport network improvement in the region, he emphasised that it is important to include, in the business case, a commitment from developers to pay a contribution towards the upgrade.
“He gave the example of the A5/M1, which is to receive up to 50 per cent costs from developers who will benefit from the upgrade.
“This threw a new spoke in the wheel for those of us, who are trying to get the funding to get the Silverlink junction fully upgraded.
“While this scheme has a reasonable score, in relation to its business case, the Minister says this must be improved to get the scheme higher up the list of schemes the Minister will approve.
“We are getting no concessions from this Government,
“It is now up to our councils to meet this task. Both myself and Alan Campbell will be doing all we can to help the process.”