Levelling Up Fund
The Winnington Bridge Corridor
The Winnington Bridge Corridor has not received funding from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities' Levelling Up Fund despite us putting forward a strong case for investment.
The Winnington Bridge Corridor will provide a replacement for a failing single-track Grade II Listed Bridge over the River Weaver and provide improvements at several junctions along Winnington Lane to Northwich town centre.
The improvements will alleviate a key pinch point which causes significant congestion across the area and will convert the existing bridge into a segregated route for cyclists and pedestrians. The aim is to make travel times by car or bus more reliable for residents, improve the environment for cyclists and walkers and ensure that the transport network can cope with new housing and business growth.
We sought Government support and endorsement of its approach for the Winnington Bridge Corridor via a Levelling Up application of £45.8 million. The engineering work is complex, and work will take place over several years. Inflation has been considered to ensure there is enough funding available if prices rise further.
For many years, residents have been frustrated with the current transport network. The three-way signal junction at the existing bridge causes significant congestion which in turn causes emissions which deter cycling and walking. Businesses are concerned that the unreliability of travel makes it difficult to plan deliveries and can deter people from working in the area.
The existing bridge is now failing and requires significant investment every year to keep it open. Weight and other restrictions will be required to be implemented to keep it operational over the next five years, and if it closed or if weight restrictions were introduced, this would result in extra miles and cost for every journey.
In addition, over the last few years Northwich has seen interest from developers for new housing and business growth. New residents and local employment will bring new footfall to the town centre to help shops and restaurants, but to benefit everybody the infrastructure needs to be up to standard so that any new housing doesn't just generate inconvenience for local people.
The Winnington Corridor project aims to address these challenges and provide an improved road network with new cycling and walking routes increase movement by sustainable healthy modes and help future-proof the area.
An important part of the funding application is that the project has support from local people, stakeholders, and the local Member of Parliament.
The project has strong support from both local Members of Parliament, as the bridge spans both their constituencies.
Many businesses are supporting the proposals including Tata Chemicals Europe, EcoLabs and Cygnet Texkimp as well as the three Business Improvement Districts: Gadbrook Park, Northwich and Winsford industrial area who combined represent over 900 businesses as well as Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership.
Northwich Town Council, Barnton Parish Council and the Canal and River Trust are all supportive too. The project evolved from a petition from residents in 2015 and an extensive consultation with residents as part of the Northwich Transport Strategy in 2018.
We have secured a broad consensus of cross-party support and is aiming to deliver this scheme to directly address the needs identified by local people and businesses.
The improvements will lead to significant tangible benefits for Northwich and rural north Cheshire. These include:
- Significant reduction of congestion, improving journey time reliability for all vehicles, including bus journeys, halving the journey time from Barnton to Northwich town centre. Given the proximity of the Victoria Infirmary, it will improve accessibility to essential healthcare facilities.
- Provision of segregated cycle and pedestrian route at the River Weaver plus the wider corridor improvements. This will improve both actual and perceived safety for cyclists and walkers which is likely to lead to an increase in 'active travel' which can both help resident's health as well as further reducing traffic on the roads.
- The scheme will remove the risk that the old bridge will fail while still being used as a major route which would lead to lengthy detours and associated costs.
- The project will help 'level-up' business growth, it will help prevent the relocation of firms/jobs to outside the area and attract new investment. Tata Chemicals Europe are planning to invest a further £40m into their development of the UK's first industrial scale carbon neutral sodium bicarbonate plant, a key milestone in the race to meet the UK's net zero targets and this will safeguard 1,300 jobs, create 236 new full-time positions, and support over 1,000 jobs in supply chain businesses in Northwich. In addition, other key manufacturers have growth and investment plans but feel their businesses are being held back by the existing network which reduces their productivity, reliability of logistics and ability to recruit staff.
- The match funding is expected to be generated through developer contributions, subject to planning applications, tied to the works. There are a number of housing development proposals around the town that would not be able to progress unless current transport infrastructure issues are addressed.
- While new housing is not the driver for this application, without transport improvements, it is unlikely that new housing and construction jobs and supply chain business spend that this generates can come forward. It also needs to be recognised that new homes and residents lead to increases in town centres footfall, bringing additional spending power into the town centre to help shops, restaurants, and other amenities. Without this stimulus, modelled at £16m more spend in Northwich per annum, it is unlikely that the Council alone will be able to significantly reduce town centre shop vacancy levels.
- New housing on the brownfield sites like the wider Tata site at Winnington will reduce pressure on green fields for future development as well as clean up contamination and remove redundant industrial buildings helping to make the environment better for everyone. It will also significantly enhance the views from Anderton Boat lift helping them promote the visitor attraction.
Fundamentally the project will address congestion, increase safe active travel, and help lever new investment to create jobs, business growth and help deliver a thriving town centre.
While this is predominately a road improvement scheme, there are key climate change improvements which will be delivered. Importantly, the reduction of queuing traffic will reduce Carbon dioxide; studies show reduction of 21 thousand tonnes of CO2; and the project will also stimulate more active travel through the creation of a segregated cross river route, as well as increase bus patronage as services will be more reliable. In addition, the scheme will meet the government targets on Biodiversity Net Gain and a biodiversity options report has been produced to identify how this best be achieved.
The bridge itself will be designed to mitigate for climate change, it will be 2.2 metres above the water level to reduce risk of flooding.
The proposals will also help to catalyse the next phase of the UK's first industrial scale carbon capture and usage plant and deliver investment in a new solar farm on contaminated flashes, something that can't happen if the transport network remains in its current form. A new solar farm would generate 60MW of clean energy, equivalent to 20-30 wind turbines and enough to provide power to over 37,500 households, almost a quarter of the total households in Cheshire West and Chester. This would be a significant step forward and this project will help unlock this potential.
We have been working for several years with specialist transport engineers to assess the options available. This has included looking at functionality, cost, risks and the impact on the existing network during construction. The emerging preferred option has formed the basis of seeking support and endorsement of its approach from Government. There will be information and engagement events to let local people and businesses know more about the proposals and share feedback. A dedicated project website will also be set up to follow all the latest information on the project as it evolves.
Feedback from the Department for Transport will be considered, and work will continue with them to bring forward the scheme.
We are committed to working to improve the transport infrastructure and will continue to liaise closely with partners and civil servants to identify opportunities to deliver a solution that local people and businesses need.
We will fully explore the options as details emerge for another round of the Levelling Up Fund.
The Government has announced that a third call for applications for Levelling Up funding (LUF) will be made, although no timetable has been set at this time. While we will need to consider the criteria and any guidance issued in relation to a third LUF application process prior to making a decision on which (if any) applications may be submitted, to publish the Round 2 Winnington Bridge Corridor Application, which could form the basis of a re-submission, at this time would potentially convey information to competitor applicants, thereby materially disadvantaging any subsequent application made for this project by us. The application information to Government includes a comprehensive assessment on costs and if this were published prior to us commissioning work, it would mean that all potential contractors would have sight of the budget affecting competitive tenders. On this basis, the full R2 LUF submission is not being published in the public domain. If a subsequent application were to be successful, we will publish the full application within five working days of the UK Government announcement.