Farthinghoe bypass funding bid falters

Lorries struggling to get past each other on the A422 in Farthinghoe
Lorries struggling to get past each other on the A422 in Farthinghoe

Residents of Farthinghoe are reeling after learning that the tacitly agreed application for funding was not submitted by Northamptonshire County Council.

South Northants MP Andrea Leadsom was equally in the dark about the unilateral decision by NCC to omit a funding request for the bypass via the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Major Road Network scheme (MRN).

South Northamptonshire MP Andrea Leadsom gives the Farthinghoe bypass petition to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling

South Northamptonshire MP Andrea Leadsom gives the Farthinghoe bypass petition to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling

In February the MP called on villagers to set up a petition which was eventually signed by 3,500 people.

As recently as July the MP, liaising with Northants County Council (NCC), the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) and England’s Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance (EEHSC), was fully expecting a bid to be submitted to the DfT by the July 31 deadline.

The MP had hoped to get an update during a Sept 12 meeting which is still going ahead.

Farthinghoe residents and its Parish Council were also instrumental in the bids progression and it was it that discovered that the MRN had not been submitted via, of all things, a newsletter.

The Parish Council said: “Farthinghoe Parish Council and the village inhabitants were astounded to hear this news especially as we were all still under the impression that Northants County Council would be fulfilling their promise made to Andrea Leadsom MP.

“We had received a routine newsletter sent from KierWsp who are the highways contractor for Northamptonshire County Council.

“Close scrutiny of this detailed document revealed that Northamptonshire County Council had submitted three bid proposals for MRN funding but with the Farthinghoe bypass bid not being included.”

The MP was equally dismayed, saying: “I share the disappointment felt by the Parish Council and the Farthinghoe community; it had seemed like we were so close to securing the funding needed for the village’s bypass, and we had the agreements in place from all the major parties to move forward with a bid through the Major Road Network. I am meeting with NCC, SEMLEP and EEHSA on the 12th September to discuss what happened, and our next steps.

“I intend to press as strongly as I can for NCC to submit a bid for funding for the bypass through the DfT’s Pinch Point Fund; I understand from officials in the DfT that, although the A422 sits on the Major Road Network, if a strong enough case is made, it could be considered suitable.

“The delivery of the bypass has been, and continues to be, an absolute top priority for me.”

Cllr Jason Smithers, NCC member for highways, said: “Unfortunately, Farthinghoe Bypass was not sufficiently progressed to enable a bid to be submitted under the Major Roads Network initiative.

“While Cabinet agreed that a northern route would form the basis for further work as and when funding was available, there is no preferred route.

“This means it is very difficult for us to have any certainty about how much it will cost or how long it will take to deliver.

“The bidding documentation that DfT have published only invites bids for development funding for schemes which already have a strategic outline business case, which is a stage that Farthinghoe has not yet reached.

“While it has not been possible to submit an MRN bid for Farthinghoe, the county council remains committed to the delivery of the scheme.”