A PLANNED bypass set to connect Braintree and Chelmsford has a “significant funding gap” which is creating a “substantial risk” for the project, a local enterprise partnership has said.

But Essex County Council says there is no “what if risk” facing Chelmsford’s planned North East Bypass.

The new road project is currently coupled with Chelmsford’s emerging Beaulieu railway station – a £218million package from the Government was predicated on both elements being delivered together.

While the station work is progressing smoothly – construction work is well underway – the Chelmsford North East Bypass, linking Chelmsford and Braintree is not moving forward as planned.

In light of the risk this poses to the Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF) of £218million secured to support delivery of the project in its entirety – and to ensure a new station at Beaulieu remains on track – Essex County Council is submitting a revised proposal to Homes England as a potential basis to reset the HIF contract.

Under the current Grant Determination Agreement with Homes England, both the £124.5million Beaulieu station project and the £93.5million Chelmsford North East Bypass project must be delivered together.

If one project fails, Homes England could terminate the agreement and withdraw any unclaimed funding.

South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), which has contributed £12million has said: “If it is not possible for Essex County Council to mitigate the risk to the HIF funding, under the terms of the Grant Determination Agreement, Homes England could stop financial support to the project.

“If the HIF funding were to be stopped, Essex County Council would be required to seek alternative funding to support delivery of the project in accordance with the agreed local growth fund (LGF) business case.

“If alternative funding could not be secured, the board would be asked to consider removing the project from the LGF programme and seeking return of the LGF funding as the project could no longer be delivered as agreed.

“Removal of the project from the LGF programme would detrimentally impact on the benefits which are forecast to be achieved through the SELEP Growth Deal and would mean that a key part of the sustainable transport measures for north-east Chelmsford would not be forthcoming.”

County Hall economic renewal, infrastructure and planning boss Lesley Wagland told SELEP the county council was committed the project will conclude, adding it is one of the better projects she has had experience of.

She said: “Plainly with any project you can have something which is a 'what if' risk. But we are not in that 'what if' risk.”

She added: “I have been dealing with major projects going back 40 years to the Channel Tunnel. This looks like to me one of the better organised projects I have seen going forward.”