Delays add £5m to Falkirk's cost for Avon Gorge project

Soaring construction costs could mean delays for vital infrastructure projects in Falkirk, including the long-awaited upgrade to the Avon Gorge A801 road and Grangemouth’s flood protection scheme.

By Kirsty Paterson
Saturday, 19th September 2020, 7:30 am

The pandemic has contributed to construction costs rising sharply, members of Falkirk Council’s emergency executive heard.That means £67 million that has been approved for several large infrastructure projects through the TIF (Tax Incremental Finance initiative) is no longer enough.The total cost of TIF projects is now £95.7 million and Falkirk Council now has to wait for Scottish Government approval to cover the extra costs.It had been hoped that work to transform the Avon Gorge, which crosses the border of Falkirk and West Lothian council areas, would have been starting this year.However, a final agreement between the two councils and the Scottish Government had not been finalised before Covid struck.Because of the delays, councillors heard that Falkirk’s contribution to the project has shot up from £8 million to nearly £13 million.Conservative councillor Nigel Harris said he was disappointed in the delay of the Avon Gorge work and believed it was time for the Scottish Government to step in.He said: “It’s a major link, between Grangemouth and Bathgate and the M8, which has been a nightmare for years.“It’s just dragging on – is it not about time the Scottish Government grabbed the nettle here?“If this was a motorway project I’m not so sure we’d be waiting for two councils to stump up for it.“We should maybe be putting some pressure on to the Scottish Government to get ahead with this project given the amount of time it’s been on the drawing board for and how important it is in improving the infrastructure of the area.”Labour councillor Alan Nimmo agreed the Avon Gorge upgrade was vital, especially given the housebuilding that was taking place in the area and said he was surprised the Scottish Government had not forced the other councils to come up with the cash.SNP Council leader Councillor Meiklejohn said it was important they got back round the table with their colleagues in West Lothian as well as the Scottish Government.She said: “Everyone’s budgets are going to be under pressure, including the Scottish Government’s but it is on the radar.“We do need to get on to it as quickly as we can and start having those persuasive conversations and look at other funding streams.”Paul Garner, the SNP’s environment spokesperson, said: “I do agree it’s imperative we move on with the Avon Gorge.“We will continue to meet with ministers and highlight the need for this infrastructure.“We do realise how important it is to the whole area, not just to the people who use it on a daily basis.”However, councillors did agree to prioritise another TIF project – widening all of the roads leading to the Westfield roundabout in Falkirk.They were told the project is now “shovel ready” and has been given £2.4 million of European funding.

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Further delays to Avon Gorge improvement project

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