SIFE was to have funded Colnbrook stretch of Rapid Transit Scheme

The Colnbrook segment of the Slough Mass Rapid Transit scheme was dependent on compensation from the proposed SIFE development we have learned, as the full extent of SBC’s cooperation with developer Goodman has been revealed.

The original route for the Slough Mass Rapid Transit (SMaRT) will now stop short of Brands Hill.

The original route for the Slough Mass Rapid Transit (SMaRT) will now stop short of Brands Hill.

The business case for SMaRT – the Slough Mass Rapid Transit scheme – published a few weeks ago, says the eastern section will “at a later date” extend the scheme from Junction 5 to the Borough boundary with “the potential to provide a direct mass rapid transit connection to Heathrow”. However, it won’t be happening any time soon.

Last year’s submission to the Berkshire Local Transport Body (BLTB), a partnership of the six Berkshire authorities and Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, pointed to the reason why: a key dependency on the Slough International Freight Exchange (SIFE) being approved.

Figures submitted last year put the cost at £3.1 million – but with Goodman Ltd expected to provide nearly half through a S106 agreement.

“There is a direct link between this eastern section of the mass rapid transit scheme and the SIFE project. The design and access statement submitted by Goodman Logistics Development (UK) Ltd in support of their planning application highlights the LTP major scheme bus lane proposals for Colnbrook Bypass and commits to contributing towards them as well as drawing up a travel plan to promote bus services.”

The inclusion of a dedicated bus lane on the Colnbrook By-pass in site layouts for SIFE submitted in 2010 caused some surprise at the time; it was not mentioned in the technical submission. Now it appears Slough and SIFE were in cahoots, working much more closely together than previously revealed.

Nobody from Colnbrook was consulted on how the S106 funds – officially, compensation for the adverse affects of an imposed development – should be spent.

The SIFE development remains "in abeyance" pending an appeal that is pending the outcome of the Davies Commission next year.

The SIFE development remains “in abeyance” pending an appeal that is pending the outcome of the Davies Commission next year.

The new bus lane was intended to be accommodated within existing highway boundaries but was dependent on SIFE being approved.

Many will feel that the extra 3,000 vehicles a day generated by SIFE should have made this a necessary part of the project and certainly not the way to spend S106 compensation.  Indeed, without some measures to reduce congestion on the by-pass Goodman’s project could never fly.

Slough’s readiness to develop proposals to spend the proceeds of the loss of Colnbrook’s Green Belt contrast with just £60,000 budgeted by the Council for legal bills to defend the site on Appeal in the 2014/15 budget.

While it turned down the initial application from Goodman, and it remains officially opposed to the development, its position will now be regarded with some suspicion by residents.

Development of further analysis for this scheme has been deferred for the time being.

The good news is that Slough says the extension through Colnbrook could still happen, even if SIFE does not.  SBC says:

“If the SIFE development does not go ahead it would still be possible to physically implement the scheme. In that event, SBC would wish to take the opportunity to explore alternative sources of matching funding and/or invite the BLTB to provide a greater proportion of the total funding.”

It also says the scheme is not dependent on the SIFE development for the provision of land.

The bad news is it is off the radar for now.

And with its funding inextricably linked to SIFE, which itself remains “in abeyance” and likely to remain so until Davies’ recommendations next year, there seems little likelihood of progress. Further evidence of the paralysis inflicted on Colnbrook from the dual threats of SIFE and Heathrow.

Of course, if Heathrow Airport Ltd gets its way the Colnbrook By-Pass will be re-routed through Albany Park and Park Street. Heathrow hasn’t made clear yet how it might accommodate a dedicated bus lane!

Slough itself said last month that it has stopped work on the project.

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