Council puts transport interchange plan for Stanford rail station on hold and is attempting to get green light for station rebuild on its own. But will it bust its own budget?
By Neil Speight
8th Jul 2021 | Local News
THURROCK Council wants to press ahead with the redevelopment of Stanford-le-Hope rail station – but without the adjacent car park and bus turning circle for the moment.
Planning councillors were asked to approve a revised scheme to restart the rebuild of the station, which has been paused for almost two years, in February this year but refused to do so and told the council they would only consider a planning application which involved both parts of the project as they were inseparable.
The whole scheme, which has so far cost the council £11 million has been a botched and mismanaged affair that has left the council red-faced and councillors and the public angry over the authority's mismanagement, incompetence and shoddy planning.
As part of the project the council moved to buy the site of the Daybreak Windows company adjacent to the existing station car park, something which added more than £4 million to the bill.
Yet having now got their hands on that land – and having admitted that it is likely part of it will be sold off or developed for housing - the council is now attempting to split the two sites.
At last night's Cabinet meeting (Wednesday, 7 July) the council's finance portfolio holder, Cllr Shane Hebb, whose Stanford West ward is where the station sits, admitted the scheme would not be going ahead in one move and that the town might have to wait for the improved car parking and the bus interchange it had been promised.
He said: "The Stanford-le-Hope interchange is planned to be delivered in two phases to deliver first a new station and then wider facilities to the north of London Road. The administration is very clear, the current paralysis of the project for nearly six months has been unnecessary.
"Residents who live around the station and those who travel further do not deserve this project to be delayed any further. It is high time to get the station project done and the frustrations to achieving that are overcome."
Speaking of the delivery plan for the scheme to redevelop the c2c station, he said: "The assertion that projects cannot be delivered in phases is flawed.
"A recent audit of the station phase of the project has verified clearly that even with changes to the north side of the wider project around the transport hub and phase two, there will be no material impact on the new station being built. It is ready to go. It was ready to go six months ago."
But he then appeared to slightly contradict himself - and possibly hinted that the council is set to bust its own imposed 'financial envelope' on the project - by saying: "The station design changed a number of months ago reflecting changes desired by the local community. That pause was regrettable but in the long run beneficial for that reason anyone should take solace in that.
"This report seeks to plough a further £10 million into the Stanford-le-Hope project getting the station done and helping design a new transport hub on the north side London Road.
"These projects are dear to this council as we are know they are dear to the residents and organisations across the borough who will benefit from and we want to enable our officials to see these projects through. By agreeing to this allocation of funding we accelerate the ability for officers to deliver these projects and get these projects done for the betterment of our borough."
Councillors at next week's meeting will be told: "A detailed review of the Transport Hub concept has been undertaken. Significant challenges and constraints were identified that need to be properly addressed in the emerging design."
The comes despite the council having already commissioned consultants' reports and fresh designs for the car park and bus turnaround, having had preliminary plans drawn up which now appears to have been money wasted. The council has refused to give full details but it is believed have spent approaching a million pounds on consultants in a bid to put right the original botched station plans.
The council, having already spent £11 million that is recordable and in the public domain, has pledged to bring the rest of the whole project to completion within a total 'budget envelope' of £20 million – a figure which critics say it is extremely unlikely to be able to achieve.
The latest report for the actual station site, which will be debated by councillors next week, can be found here.