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Ashford: Future of Chart Road dual carriageway project remains in doubt

By Dan Wright

Chilmington Green developers remain at loggerheads with Kent County Council over the delayed Chart Road dual carriageway project.

Construction of the £26 million road, which will widen the stretch between the Tank roundabout and Matalan, was due to begin earlier this year after scores of trees were felled.

But council chiefs say starting work would put them at an "unacceptable financial risk" as house builder Hodson Developments is yet to stump up a security bond.

Trees have already been cut down in Chart Road
Trees have already been cut down in Chart Road

KCC says the bond is required under the section 278 agreement of the Highways Act - an agreement entered into by the local authority and the developer behind a major project to fund infrastructure works - but Hodson says the delay to the start of the work is "simply one of timing".

In deeds imposing planning obligations, it says Hodson Developments and KCC entered an agreement under section 278 to provide an "on demand bond" for the full cost of the works.

But the development company says a section 106 agreement states it does not have to provide the cash until 400 homes have been occupied at Chilmington.

How Chart Road could look
How Chart Road could look

KCC says an additional clause was included within the section 106 which restricted the developer from occupying more than 400 dwellings until the bond was provided.

A section 106 agreement allows councils to get money from developers in exchange for granting planning permission for projects, making a development proposal acceptable in planning terms.

In a statement, KCC said: "The security bond is required to be provided under the section 278 agreement and is needed to safeguard the loan that KCC was due to take out to forward-fund the delivery of the scheme.

How Chilmington Green will look
How Chilmington Green will look

"An additional clause was included within the section 106 agreement, restricting the developer from occupying more than 400 dwellings until the bond is provided.

"The section 106 and section 278 agreements are separate documents in their own right and are legally enforceable on a separate basis.

"This was a deliberate provision to prevent further traffic movements on the highway network in the event that the bond required pursuant to the section 278 agreement was not provided by that trigger point."

Construction has been delayed
Construction has been delayed

Contractors began preparation work on the stretch in February, cutting mature trees down before the start of the bird nesting season.

Full construction was expected to start in March before being completed by autumn 2019.

The KCC statement added: "Both we and Ashford Borough Council (ABC) have worked tirelessly to explore alternative delivery options with both the Chilmington developer and Homes England and a workable solution has not yet been found that doesn’t expose either, or both, authorities to unacceptable financial risk.

"It is right that we wait until the developer is better able to guarantee repayment of the cost of the works before commencing the improvement scheme.

"Any work carried out on the project to date will not be wasted as it will form the basis of the construction works for when they do start.

"It is our understanding that housebuilding is expected to start soon and we are discussing the future programme of Chart Road with the developer."

Hodson Developments managing director Alan Hodson says the section 106 agreement says his company is only required to provide the bond when 400 homes are occupied.

He said: "The delay to the A28 works is a direct result of the delay to the start of construction at Chilmington Green.

"So the whole issue around the A28 road works is simply one of timing.

"Chilmington Green is a major development, and the planning for it has been going on for a number of years.

"In the early stages, KCC undertook some modelling work, looking at the capacity of the local road network.

"It concluded that work to dual the A28 would need to be started after 400 houses had been occupied at Chilmington Green.

"For various planning reasons the timetable for the whole project has slipped and Hodson Developments has only last week received its formal planning notice enabling us to start construction. We anticipate starting on site shortly.

"The occupation of the 400th house is now likely to happen within the next two years.

"The security bond guarantees that the developer will pay for the works, but there is no commitment for the developer to make an actual financial contribution until the end of March 2021.

"However, despite the fact that no security bond or payment is currently due, Hodson Developments is in on-going discussions with KCC and ABC to see if there is a way to bring the works forward."

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