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Council takes steps to acquire land for bus improvement scheme

Published on 04 October 2017

LEICESTER City Council has signalled its intent to use compulsory purchase order powers to progress its plans for a new link road that would improve bus reliability and journey times out of the city centre.

The council is set to begin the legal process that would grant it powers to acquire the land and access rights it needs for the scheme in the Belgrave Gate/Mansfield Street area, if ongoing attempts to buy it by agreement are unsuccessful.

The land is required for a new road that would link Belgrave Gate with Mansfield Street, providing a much quicker route out of the city centre for buses leaving the Haymarket bus station. It would also enable Mansfield Street to be upgraded, making it suitable for buses and improving the environment for pedestrians.

Talks with the owners of the land – which comprises space currently used as a car park, and parts of access roads to properties facing Belgrave Gate and Church Gate – have been under way since 2014, but the council is now ready to start the legal process that will give it the powers it needs to acquire the land and the access rights required for the scheme.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “Compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) can only be used as a last resort, but – after three years trying to buy the land through negotiation – we’re ready to go down that route in order to deliver this vital scheme for the city.

“We will obviously continue our negotiations, but should we be unsuccessful in acquiring the land by agreement, we will formally make the order to the Secretary of State in November.”

With the new link road in place, buses would no longer need to use Haymarket and Church Gate – paving the way for plans to pedestrianise the two streets.

The new link road, together with an upgraded Sandacre Street, would also form a new pedestrian route between the city’s two bus stations.

“Better links for pedestrians, improved bus reliability, and quicker journey times for passengers will all help make bus travel more attractive to people travelling in and out of the city centre,” said the City Mayor.

“This major scheme will help us achieve those objectives, while giving us the opportunity to transform the Church Gate and Haymarket areas around the Clock Tower with a safer, more pleasant, pedestrianised environment – which should help attract new investment to the area.”

The scheme is part of the City Mayor’s Connecting Leicester project, which is improving routes through the city centre for pedestrians while making it more attractive to investors and developers.

Subject to the acquisition of the required land by agreement, work on the new link road could get under way in April 2018, although any acquisition through a CPO would take significantly longer. Once work starts on site, the new road would take around eight months to build, with the pedestrianisation of Haymarket/Church Gate getting under way once the road was complete.

The Belgrave Gate and Mansfield Street Link Road and Improvement Scheme is supported by the Government’s Local Growth Fund.

Funding of £6million has already been allocated to the project, but the City Mayor now intends to approve further spending of £2.5million to cover the estimated costs of the whole scheme. This additional funding will be met by Section 106 contributions expected from the Castle Acres retail park development.

A formal decision on the additional expenditure, and on the proposal to start the CPO proceedings, is due to be made on 12 October.