Attempts to raid village fund thwarted in Hortham

PLANS to "raid" a village’s coffers to spend its funds on a bus link elsewhere in South Gloucestershire have been foiled - for now.

Around £1.5 million was handed to South Gloucestershire Council by developer Barratt Homes as a condition of its application to build a housing estate in Hortham, near Almondsbury. The sum was designed to offset the cost of new infrastructure and transport links, including a potential bus line along the A38 between the village and the M5.

But faced with unexpected additional costs of nearly £420,000 to another project in the region, members of the policy and resources committee at South Gloucestershire Council were considering dropping Hortham’s public transport plans in favour of completing ongoing work on a new bus link in Cheswick.

Following an appeal from Almondsbury Conservative Cllr Sheila Cook, who urged councillors not to squander funds specifically set aside for the village on another scheme miles away until there was strong evidence that a bus route was not necessary in Hortham, they agreed to postpone their decision.

Cllr Cook argued a ‘bus priority corridor study’ had to be commissioned before Hortham’s transport fund was diverted to Cheswick.

She told the Gazette: "I welcome the committee’s decision to agree to put this decision on hold.

"It beggars belief that raiding Hortham Village’s transport funding and spending it miles away in another part of the district was being seriously considered before the study has been completed on whether these funds should be spent to improve the A38 to benefit Hortham Village residents."

The six-acre Hortham development was awarded £1.5 million for highway works - £1,435,000 for what was reffered to as ‘bus services and north fringe' in the application and and £65,000 for 'M5 improvements’. A further £900,000 was allocated towards improving or creating new community facilities. Almondsbury Primary School received £800,000 to build an additional classroom and locals are now hoping to use the remaining £100,000 towards a much-needed village hall.

The A38 bus link project had previously been approved and included in South Gloucestershire Council’s 2012/13 Local Transport Capital Programme. The initial feasibility study is now due to be completed in March 2013.

Cllr Cook added: "I look forward to the study being completed as soon as practically possible. £420,000 is a tremendous amount of money which has the potential to transform public transport infrastructure along the A38."

A council spokesman said: "At the council’s policy and resources committee meeting, it was proposed that £420,000 of Section 106 funding from the Hortham Lane development be allocated to fund the additional costs of the Cheswick Bus Link.

However it was subsequently resolved that the allocation be deferred pending a feasibility study on the A38 Gloucester Road Hortham Lane to M5 Bus Priority Corridor."

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