Leader of Lincolnshire County Council warns that full completion of planned Spalding Western Relief Road could take "20 to 25 years"
The £101million Spalding Western Relief Road (SWRR) project is "certainly not a done deal", according to the Leader of Lincolnshire County Council.
Speaking ahead of a crucial meeting on Monday about plans for the four-mile (6.5km) road to link the B1172 Spalding Common with the B1356 Spalding Road, Coun Martin Hill admitted that the project could take "20 to 25 years" to complete.
In a report due to go before the county council's Highways and Transport Scrutiny Committee on April 29, funding of £27.6million is confirmed for the road's northern section between an area north of Vernatt's Drain and Spalding Road.
But with opposition to the project from people whose homes look out on to Vernatt's Drain, as well as those who could see their homes bulldozed to make way for the £29.1million southern section between Spalding Common and Holland Park, Coun Hill refused to give "an open-ended guarantee" that the £44.8million middle section (Holland Park to Vernatt's Drain) would be built.
Coun Hill said: "There have always been thoughts that with the new housing developments coming to Spalding, we don't really want more houses and not have the roads to serve them.
"In partnership with South Holland District Council, we've looked at how we can make this happen and a lot of it will be paid for by developers' contributions.
"But things have moved on now that the Government has given the district council £12million from its Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) which is all about unlocking development space.
"The HIF money has probably tipped the balance and made the SWRR more deliverable, but it's very much a long-term aspiration and it's certainly not a done deal."
Coun Hill revealed that he "fully sympathises" with concerns raised by members of the pressure group, Spalding Pinchbeck Against Relief Road (SPARR), who have criticised county highways leaders for the lack of information about the SWRR and its potential impact on people living in the areas where the northern and southern sections are planned.
As a result of SPARR's protests, with a further one planned outside the Highways and Transport Scrutiny Committee meeting in Lincoln on Monday, the county council announced plans to reconsider the options for SWRR's middle section, including one that would avoid the need to demolish up to nine homes in Bourne Road.
Coun Hill said: "My own personal view is that we can proceed with the northern and southern sections, but we're not giving an open-ended guarantee that this will happen.
"The worst case scenario is that we'll have to wait 20-25 years to get all the houses built and then, eventually, there'll be the money for the SWRR.
"But it very much depends on the housing and so I fully sympathise with those people who weren't fully aware of what potentially was going to happen.
"It must be the worst thing in the world to suddenly find out that you have a house where a road will go through the middle of it.
"That's why we've committed to a further consultation so everybody has a chance to have their input on what they think."