New A14 junction 'needed to unlock development'

Traffic on the A14 Image copyright Highways Agency
Image caption The A14 carries traffic from the port of Felixstowe to the Midlands

It already has a name, it has already has an exact location on a map, and several hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent assessing its benefits but as yet, no one knows when Junction 10A on the infamous A14 will actually be built.

The plans for a new access road to the east of Kettering have been talked about seriously for the last five years but without any government funding it can't be built. And the lack of a new junction puts the plans to build 5,500 new homes and a new energy park at risk.

According to some estimates this new junction, costing £39 million, could deliver more than a billion pounds to the local economy.

The local MP is getting frustrated. "Local people need a commitment from Her Majesty's Government to fund this junction," said Philip Hollobone.

He told MPs during a debate he had secured to discuss Junction 10A that work didn't have to start now, he simply wanted a promise that it would start at some stage in the future.

"Such a commitment would give developers the necessary assurance that the funding would be forthcoming at a future date, which would trigger private sector investment now to ensure that the development takes place.

Delays could prove disastrous

"Any delay by Her Majesty's Government in giving that commitment will delay the development of Kettering East, which increases the chance of it not taking place properly. The chance increases of a soulless housing estate being created, rather than a vital, liveable community."

But it's not just new housing at risk. Mr Hollobone remarked that nearby was "a surprisingly popular" wind farm with ambitions to increase in size and develop into an energy park with solar generation, biomass plants and heat recycling. The hope is to make Kettering an entirely green town.

"There are not many economic projects across the country that could trigger £1.2 billion of total economic activity for £39 million," said Mr Hollobone.

The roads minister Robert Goodwill was never going to promise to fund the junction in this debate but he said he hoped to make "encouraging noises"

Road to unblock stalled housing scheme

"I very much recognise the important role the A14 plays in facilitating movements in and around Kettering," said Mr Goodwill. "But any proposals for future investment will need to demonstrate a strong business case."

The minister talked about how the government prioritises roads which are good for economic development and how it wants to unblock stalled housing schemes. In short, he made the case himself for funding the road.

There were hints that there might be some money from the Growing Places Fund, which is due to pay out in July and even a veiled hint that something might be said in the Autumn Statement.

If you come away with the impression that Junction 10A may well have a promising future, it might make you wonder why it is taking so long.

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