Surrey County Council says it will likely have to turn to the government for support to afford the infrastructure needed to cope with housing demands
06:30, 22 JAN 2016
BY JAMES WATKINS
Surrey County Council, County HallSurrey County Council is facing a £3bn funding shortfall
A multi-billion pound shortfall in funds to pay for infrastructure improvements needed to cope with Surrey’s swelling demand for housing has been highlighted in a new report.
The document, which assesses housing need and local plans over the next 15 years, has revealed a gap in funding for roads, public transport, school places, flood defences and other infrastructure – understood by Get Surrey to be in the region of £3bn.
Senior borough council leaders have been briefed on Surrey County Council’s (SCC) draft Surrey Infrastructure Report, which is expected to be discussed during an SCC economic prosperity, environment and highways board meeting on Tuesday (January 26).
Councillor John Furey, SCC’s cabinet member for highways, transport and flooding, could not confirm the exact amount needed for the infrastructure works, as costing has not been finalised, but said it was expected to run to billions of pounds.
“What we have done is taken all of the local plans that borough and districts have been preparing,” said Cllr Furey.
“[We have] analysed their economic development area, analysed the housing numbers they are proposing, analysed the requirements from that as to how we provide the infrastructure to go with those proposals, and then worked together to finalise the means by which we will fund the infrastructure requirements.”
County councillor John Furey
He continued: “It is very much a collaborative issue. Surrey [County Council] is taking the lead because we are the highway authority. It is entirely dependent on what boroughs and districts are proposing.
“It is not going to be millions, it is going to be billions of pounds. It will have to be government funding. We cannot ask our residents to fund something that is completely out of the reach of the council taxpayer.
“What we have to do is present to government a compelling case that if we provide this infrastructure, what the economic growth will be and what the housing delivery numbers will be.”
Cllr Furey said one major issue was the refurbishment and upgrade of the North Downs railway line, adding it could be key in providing a better service – with extra trains to take people off currently congested roads.
“One thing that hits the economy is congestion,” he said. “More importantly, it affects ordinary residents who want to use roads to get from A to B and find themselves in a six-hour queue.
“Railway, roads, public transport – it is all of those things that have to be taken into consideration, so the infrastructure study will be very detailed.”
The report is currently in draft form and Cllr Furey expects it to be finalised by the end of March.
This would coincide with the release of Guildford Borough Council’s report on infrastructure proposals for the borough, expected to include plans for a new ‘sustainable corridor’, A3 junction improvements and a railway station at Park Barn.
The county council report, which was compiled by an independent body, also includes details on flood defences and primary and secondary schools.
As well as smaller developments, there are several major housing proposals that have caused alarm about the potential impact on the county’s creaking infrastructure.
Plans for the University of Surrey’s Blackwell Farm, Dunsfold Aerodrome, the former Wisley Airfield and Slyfield Area Regeneration Project, are each the subject of proposals for homes numbering in the thousands.