Guildford has seen little infrastructure investment in Water, Sewage, Electricity, Roads and Rail over the last few decades. Although investment is emerging e.g. New Sewage Plant as part of the Slyfield development, it is a slow process and hard won.
The opening of the Northern Line Extension to Battersea Power Station has been celebrated as completion of the construction under budget, despite being delayed by Covid restrictions. The extension is also notable in that it used private finance to deliver the project in a timely fashion.
According to Transport for London (TfL) project director for the extension Martin Gosling, the funding model should be considered for other projects.
The £998.9M cost of the extension in 2019 was supported by a loan from the Public Works Loan Board, confirmed in the Chancellor’s 2012 Autumn Statement to finance the construction. Repayment of the borrowing is set to come from incremental business rates through establishing an Enterprise Zone, and developer contributions raised by the London Boroughs of Wandsworth and Lambeth on the Battersea Power Station site and Nine Elms under Section 106 agreements.
“The project was re-authorised in 2016 at £1.26bn [following design changes at Battersea driven by the oversite development] and the Greater London Authority (GLA) underwrote £1bn of that,” explained Gosling. “Effectively, the GLA raised the funding through contributions from the developers and increased business rates.
Gosling said that without the funding model it would have been much more difficult to get the project underway in the same timescale. He commented that - ‘Up to £1bn, I had certainty of finance. With any business, there are always concerns about cashflow and funding, but I knew I had continuity of funding. Anything above the £1bn, TfL is responsible for financing. The model has worked very well.”
Guildford obviously negotiates Section 106 agreements with developers, but maybe alongside a Town Centre Masterplan consideration needs to be given to setting up a Enterprise Zone or similar to allow the increase in value of property to be used to support the investment the town requires. Should the Guildford Economic Regeneration Plan explore this?
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