MORE than £15million of government cash allocated to road improvements in Bicester is set to be shifted to two projects in Abingdon amid fears it could be lost.

An Oxfordshire County Council report says the Bicester scheme, intended to realign the A4095 at Howes Lane and Lords Lane with the new underpass near the junction of Bucknell Road and Howes Lane, is unlikely to be delivered by the March 2023 deadline.

That is due to “significantly more” funds being required with “additional drainage elements as well as a longer construction period” and the potential need for a compulsory purchase order – where authorities can insist on acquiring privately-owned land – cited as the reasons. 

The funding comes from the Housing & Growth Deal, £150million of government cash that has been made available to Oxfordshire to pay for infrastructure projects that must support extra housing in the area.

Factoring in delays, it is estimated that the Bicester project would support the build of 150 new homes, 200 less than the 350 extra homes that the funding could support in north Abingdon if reallocated to work on the A34 Lodge Hill interchange. Some of the money would also go to cover “cost pressure” around a pedestrian and cycle bridge at Milton Heights.

Oxfordshire County Council leader Councillor Liz Leffman told district and city council leader at a meeting of the Future Oxfordshire Partnership: “We understand that this is not an easy decision to have taken in respect of housing development in Bicester, I know there are some concerns about it

“The fact the building of housing has slowed down now has meant we have had to reassess what we are doing here.

“It is time sensitive and rather than losing that money, we decided it was best to go with the recommendation and use that money at Milton Heights and Lodge Hill.

“We will be looking at ways we can support strategic road development in Bicester but that will be further down the line.”

The discussion was to seek endorsement from the rest of the leaders. No formal decisions can be taken by the partnership but support was forthcoming ahead of councillor Leffman asking the county’s cabinet to support the plan. 

Cherwell District Council Leader Councillor Barry Wood said: “It is important to understand that parcels of money from central government are very often time constrained. You have to get on with it or you risk losing the money to some other part of the country.

“It is also important to understand this does not mean the realignment at Howes Lane in Bicester is not going to happen, this means partners will need to work together to make sure there are alternative funding packages that make the road work."