COSTS on the Middlewich bypass project have surged by £13.3 million, council documents show.

Ahead of the council discussing its 2021-22 budget on Wednesday (February 17), documents released show that the price of the project has risen from £60.2 million to £73.5 million.

The report says: “Since the July 2020 approval officers have been focussed on refining the land and interests that are necessary to deliver the scheme in order to satisfy the requirement that there be a ‘compelling case in the public interest’ for land and interests to be acquired. 

“Members will note that the scheme costs have increased since the approval given in July 2020 from £60.2 million to £73.5 million.”

A council spokesperson has defended the increase, saying it is necessary ‘to allow for potential additional costs’.

The spokesperson said: “Following a successful business case submission and with government support, the council has now further developed the Middlewich Eastern Bypass scheme to the next level of detail, and it is necessary to increase the overall scheme budget to allow for potential additional costs. 

“These relate to an increased allowance for the procedure to support the acquisition of land, an increase in cost estimates from statutory undertakers for the diversion of their services and an increase in the overall scheme risk allowance.

“Also, in view of the present uncertain economic climate, the scheme estimate now includes an increased allowance for inflation.

“Projected budgets for a scheme of this scale are always under review as the project develops and the variation in the budget for the bypass is comparable with other similar road schemes of this size and scale.

“The council will continue to work with its contractors to reduce the scheme costs and secure contributions through the planning process.”

Despite the cost hike, Middlewich councillor Jonathan Parry told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he was ‘looking forward’ to the road’s opening, projected for 2023.

He said: “I am very much looking forward to it happening. It will not solve all of our traffic problems, but it will contribute significantly to reliving some of the pressures.

“It is good to see that the council is moving forward with it — [the money] had to be allocated and I am just eager to get it moving and get traffic moving down it.”

Cheshire East’s council meeting is online, starting at 11am on Wednesday, February 17.