Promise that A52 ‘debacle’ will not happen again with Derby’s new A50 junction

Worried councillors in Derby have been reassured that the “scars” of the spiralling costs of the A52 project will not be reopened when a new A50 junction is built on the edge of the city. Work on the new A50 junction is expected to start to next year following the Government’s allocation of Levelling Up Fund money to the tune of almost £50 million.

The new junction will provide access to thousands of new homes and business land which could see the creation of up to 5,000 new jobs. The area will also see one of the very few new UK garden villages being created.

Plans for the new junction, south of Sinfin at Deep Dale Lane, were approved in February last year, with the cost of the scheme listed as £37.5 million. However, the estimated cost of the junction now stands at £55.6 million – an increase of nearly 50 per cent – and council officials suspect this will increase further.

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This has prompted concern from councillors in Derby, who have recently experienced the “debacle” of the huge spiralling costs coming out in the middle of the city council’s project to improve the A52 – one of Derby’s busiest routes. From what was an original £9 million project, the A52 improvements which started in 2018 turned out to cost more than £40 million and saw numerous delays as a result.

The spiralling increased led to an internal investigation being carried out to discover what had gone wrong. The then city council chief executive Carole Mills said: “There was an over-optimistically low budget for the works.”

Councillors in Derby said at an executive scrutiny meeting on Tuesday they want to see lessons have been learnt by the “debacle” and ensure the A50 works are delivered on budget at no extra cost for the councils involved. The project is being entirely funded by the Government’s Levelling Up Fund and funds within the private sector.

Labour councillor and chair of the executive scrutiny board Martin Repton said: “We were all scarred by the debacle of the A52 and we just want to make sure there is no repeat of that. If it’s central Government money or local money, we just need to make sure those lessons are learnt, and we don’t have a repeat of that.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Lucy Care added: “We have the experience of the A52 where we know that cost overruns can be significant, and it would be good if we weren’t going to be shouldered with too much of that burden.” Their concerns led to Rachel North, Derby City Council’s strategic director for communities and place, to assure councillors that lessons were learned over the A52 project and mistakes would not be repeated.

Ms North told the meeting: “Just to reassure the committee and members – extensive briefing and learning has been made from that project (A52). There are some things that need to be learned from which didn’t work particularly well and there has been really extensive work to understand all the implications and learn those lessons. That report has gone through our audit and governance committee, been used internally by officers – it is being used and we are learning those lessons. I can give you reassurance of that and there is no risk of repeating those mistakes in this project.”

Labour councillor Alison Martin said she wanted to see more Levelling Up funding being allocated to Derby for other benefits. She said: “I do think it’s a bit sad though that for Derby that our Levelling Up funding is a road junction. Whilst I recognise all the efforts that have gone into this – is there any scope for a further application to this fund?”

Councillor Martin urged Derby City Council’s cabinet to make another bid in the next round of Levelling Up funding but this time for a “culture” themed project.