Green Party angered as anticipated problems result in a £2.5m bill for local people

19 November 2017

The Forest of Dean Green Party has learned of a shocking £2.5M overspend on the first phase of Northern Quarter Development spine road – representing £73 for every household in the district.

Gloucestershire County Council last week voted to spend £2.5M of “unallocated capital funding” from the Highways, Maintenance and Integrated Transport budgets, to meet the shortfall.

These sums were revealed after the Forest of Dean Green Party wrote to the council demanding to be told the truth. The spend was approved last Wednesday (15th) by the county council cabinet.

If the Forest of Dean District Council, which gave planning permission to the scheme in 2014 despite much public opposition, had to pay for this itself, this year’s council tax rise would have more than doubled, at almost 5%.

Sid Phelps, District Councillor for adjoining Lydbrook & Ruardean ward said:

“This is an outrageous misuse of council tax payers’ money. The Cinderford Regeneration Board were warned time and again before work began that developing this site was a high risk strategy, but they pressed stubbornly ahead regardless.

“The first phase of the Spine Road has shot up nearly 70 per cent in cost. This money was intended for improving existing roads, footways and cycleways and on supporting integrated transport, which are all sorely needed.

 Cllr Phelps added: “We have always said that this is the right development, but in the wrong place. This overspend makes you wonder what other services are going to be starved of resources before this sorry saga ends.”

Green Party Councillor Chris McFarling said “The Council agreed to develop the Cinderford Northern Quarter many years ago. Had I been a Councillor at the inception of this scheme I would have moved heaven and earth to avoid developing such an ecologically important site with such potentially expensive risks.

My personal viewpoint (and I am not speaking on behalf of the cabinet or the council) is that £2.5m is a lot of public money which could have been better spent in other areas. I do hope the project delivers what it set out to do in terms of jobs, education, industry and environment. But I will continue to question the scheme if I think it is not using our declining public funds wisely.

This is GCC money spent in our district. Imagine what £2.5m could have done for FoDDC budgets today in youth services, for example!”

For more information on CNQ and other campaigns, see our Campaigns Page.