East Renfrewshire road delayed amid City Deal changes

A new road between Newton Mearns and Barrhead has been put on hold, due to rising costs, to allow three other projects to progress.

The Glasgow City Region cabinet agreed to East Renfrewshire Council’s request to delay a Levern Valley link road

The Glasgow City Region cabinet agreed to East Renfrewshire Council’s request to delay a Levern Valley link road, which is now a “longer-term” focus.

A new visitors centre at Dams to Darnley Country Park, a Barrhead South rail station and upgrades to Aurs Road will now be prioritised under a £44m programme — primarily funded by the £1bn City Deal, with cash from both the UK and Scottish Governments.

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The total cost of the programme is now £49.95m, and the shortfall will be covered by a £5.5m grant from walking and cycling charity Sustrans and money from the council.

Andy Cahill, East Renfrewshire’s environment director, said: “In essence, it is proposed to focus the remaining funding we have available on Aurs Road, the visitors centre and Barrhead South rail station and to defer development of a link road at this point in time.”

He said the scope of those projects had been developed to “substantially improve the outcomes”.

“With the enhanced scopes and unavoidable delays, the estimated costs for some of the schemes have increased substantially,” he added.

Funding will be redirected from the link road project and from the reduced cost of the planned Dams to Darnley visitor facilities to cover the increased price of the Aurs Road upgrade, expected to cost £18m, and Barrhead rail station scheme, estimated at £18.3m.

Work at Dams to Darnley was initially planned to cost £5.6m, but has been cut to £2.8m. The Levern Valley link and Aurs Road upgrade were originally combined, with an allocation of £21.8m.

Kevin Rush, director of regional economic growth for the Glasgow City Region, said the two governments had confirmed they are happy with the approach to the “substantial changes”.

He added: “They were very clear that in cases of increasing costs there was no new money from the government for this, and it was for individual regions to manage within their own allocations.”

Mr Cahill said there were several potential options for the Levern Valley road, with some involving links into Renfrewshire. That project could take up until 2035 to deliver, and “significant” extra money would be needed.

He added it “remains a live, longer-term project and alternative funding sources will be investigated”.

East Renfrewshire’s M77 corridor programme has been funded by £38m from the City Deal and a £6m contribution from the council. It is focused on the planned growth of Newton Mearns, regenerating Barrhead and transforming the Dams to Darnley park into a popular attraction.

A report to the City Region cabinet stated the business case for the M77 programme was prepared over five years ago and is now considered “out of date”, with many development costs having “considerably increased”.

Changes to project scopes, time spent on consultation with statutory bodies and the impact of Covid-19 on current market conditions and contract inflation have been given as reasons for the increases.

Work on Aurs Road aims to improve the connection between Newton Mearns, Barrhead and the country park. It is hoped the scheme will provide a more direct road, improve walking and cycling paths and allow a bus route to be provided.

Originally, it was planned to straighten the road and strengthen a weak bridge, but the scheme has been changed to include two sections of realignment, a roundabout, replacement of the weak road bridge and a boardwalk along the edge of Balgray reservoir.

The proposals for the country park are “under review”, but are expected to focus on a “smaller scale and less expensive visitor centre” with attractions around the park, rather than a “major visitor centre”.

Work in the park is set to start in 2023 and finish in September 2024. A wakeboarding facility is also proposed but will be funded separately from the City Deal.

The cost of the new rail station at Barrhead South has increased due to the need for a pedestrian bridge and lifts as well as ground condition issues.

The station, on the Glasgow to Neilston line, is expected to improve access to jobs and services for the community of Auchenback and residents in new developments. The project is expected to start in late 2023 and be completed in 2025.

A report on the changes was presented to an East Renfrewshire Council meeting earlier this year.