MINOR changes to the Middlewich eastern bypass project which could save the council precious time and money have been given unanimous approval by councillors.

Alterations to the scheme in four small areas alongside the route were given the green light at Cheshire East Council’s strategic planning board meeting on Wednesday.

They include new areas of mitigation for newts, new ponds, additional hedgerow planting and a new farmer’s underpass.

Council officers say these tweaks will ‘not change substantially’ the project’s visual appearance and no additional trees will be removed – but they will play a key role in making the project more deliverable.

This means financial savings can be made, while the local authority can avoid the risk of further delays to the scheme, which would see it face additional costs due to inflation.

Neil Grundy, CEC highways officer, urged the committee to approve the plans for a ‘key piece of infrastructure’ that will relieve ‘chronic congestion’ and enable further development at Midpoint 18.

He said: “Middlewich eastern bypass has had planning permission now since July 2019. In that time an opportunity to take a different approach to mitigation for great crested newts has become possible.

“This, together with the need for cost savings on the scheme, has warranted some engineering and environmental changes.

“The decisions that we have taken to make the changes have been taken based upon cost, risk and deliverability considerations for the scheme – with costs affecting deliverability, and delays due to deliverability issues causing further increases in estimated costs due to construction inflation.

“This is a potential threat to any scheme – the Middlewich eastern bypass is not excluded from that – and it is an ever-present challenge that we have to face in delivering schemes of this size and nature.”

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Middlewich Town Council had raised no objections to the project, but Magnitude Land LLP – one of the landowners for the site – raised concerns about the loss of land that could be used for industrial buildings, offices or warehouses.

But CEC officers insisted the proposals fit with the council’s local plan, and that the ecological measures Magnitude Land LLP wanted to remove would be necessary.

The last estimate for the bypass was a cost of £60.2 million, with a 22-month construction period starting in 2021.