No Business Case for A555 Before Approval

THE Lib-Dem MP for Cheadle has defended a claim that a government minister intervened before rules governing the new A555 relief road had been followed.

A report in the Financial Times alleges that Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander became involved in the decision to approve the road, which was given the go ahead in the Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn statement in 2011, but three weeks before a business case had been completed.

The road runs through Cheadle, the marginal constituency of Lib-Dem Mark Hunter, who has a majority of 3,272, or 6 per cent.

Mr Alexander took a close interest in the Manchester airport link road, which received £165m of government funding, which was referred to in e-mails between officials at the transport department as the ‘Cheadle constituency link road’.

Correspondence uncovered by the Campaign for Better Transport through a Freedom of Information Act request shows Mr Alexander was personally involved in talks over the Cheadle link road, which campaigners had opposed because it runs through greenbelt land.

In one email, an unnamed official at the Treasury emails the transport department to ask: “Do you have any information on the A555? Our spads [personal advisers appointed by Mr Alexander] are asking some questions.”

Another states: “CST [the chief secretary] would like an update on this link road.”

One email from Stockport council to the transport department sent after the November 29 statement states: “A draft business case will be issued by 23rd December 2011.”

Mr Hunter told the Stockport Mail that the completed road build had been in the planning for the past three decades

He said: “The middle section was built many years ago following commercial development around Handforth Dean, and I have pressed successive governments since I was first elected to Parliament to complete the much needed scheme – otherwise the part of the road already in situ stands as a testament to the folly of short-term transport planning.

“I am delighted that the Coalition Government has given its full backing to the scheme, which according to the latest public survey of local opinion is supported by a majority of seven to one.

“I think it is important to note that the scheme continues to enjoy support from all the major parties, along with the Chamber of Commerce and the owners and operators of Manchester Airport.