AN MP has accused Colchester Council of “damaging the economy” by delaying the widening of the A12.

Witham's Priti Patel has called on the Government to put an end to the delays and intervene so the preferred route for the scheme can finally be announced.

A decision was expected last year but has been put off because Colchester Council is still waiting for a decision by a planning inspector on the future of garden communities.

However, Colchester Council has said the problem lies with the government and Highways England.

Tory MP Ms Patel said: “The widening of the A12 is one of the most important infrastructure investments in this part of England and will provide a major boost to our economy.

“We were supposed to have had a decision last year on the route and diggers in the ground starting work next year but all this has now been pushed back.

“The delays to the A12 widening scheme caused by Colchester Council are damaging to the economy and had they planned their housing proposals more effectively we would not be in this situation.

“Local businesses and residents need certainty and must know what the preferred route will be so they can make plans.

“The Government needs to intervene to get this work commenced as soon as possible and they also need to hold Colchester Council to account for these delays.”

The Government committed to fund the scheme to widen the A12 between Chelmsford and Marks Tey in 2014.

Following a consultation in 2017 an announcement on a preferred route was expected last year.

Ms Patel claims changes in the development plan proposals put forward by Colchester Council has caused the decision on the A12 to be postponed.

She said it has been further delayed by problems with the evidence base for the Local Plan.

But Tim Young, deputy leader of Colchester Council, said: “It’s certainly not a decision for us.

“Her obsession with Colchester Council colours her judgement.

“She puts out these releases without speaking to us or officers and I think it’s about time she came here to have a face to face conversation with us and see we haven’t got three heads and that we do act in the best interests of our residents and we would be happy to work with her if she gave us a chance.

A spokesman for Colchester Council said: “The responsibility for the future route will rest solely with Highways England and the Government through the Department for Transport.

“There is no question of delaying work on the A12, but we do have to get it right.

"In following the process for the Local Plan agreed with the Planning Inspector, the North Essex Authorities and Essex County Council have requested that the government chooses a final route which will meet the needs of a growing north Essex economy and the development principles that we have set out to deliver the proposed garden communities.

"If a garden community does come forward in this area, it is imperative the A12 follows the best possible alignment to guarantee it is delivered to those development principles.

“This has always meant planning for future housing and road improvements together, not in isolation, and taking the necessary time to consider the revised evidence and make the right decision, even if it does take some extra months.

"The Government has been very clear that housing and infrastructure is linked – that is why they launched their Housing Infrastructure Fund – as they recognise that much-needed new homes must be supported by the right strategic infrastructure.

“Essex County Council continues to work on the detail of the provisionally-agreed multimillion pound Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) bid, to secure the finance for improvements to the A12 around Marks Tey and to allow the proposed new A120 road to join to the A12.

"Since this will be submitted in March, a great deal of work is currently underway to deliver the A12 widening scheme.”