PLANS for a bypass at Camelford took a step closer today but Cornwall Council’s portfolio holder for economy warned that the cost of the scheme – which has trebled – had grown almost out of control, so much so that the risk to the council “frightened” him.

The A39 Atlantic Highway: Camelford bypass project comprises a 4km long bypass which will significantly improve journey times and remove around 80 per cent of through-traffic from Camelford high street, which would be supported by complementary town centre measures.

The council’s portfolio holder for transport Cllr Richards Williams-Pears said “The scheme presents an opportunity to deliver a long-held aspiration for the local community.”

The original business case was submitted back in 2021 and had a cost estimate of £48.4-millon which included a £6.59-million council contribution which was approved by the Cabinet in 2019.

More robust estimates of the construction figures have now been made and allowances calculated for risk, inflation, project fees and other contingencies, meaning current scheme estimate has more than trebled to £146.625-million, comprising a base cost of £88.5-million plus an allowance of £29.13-million for client risk, £24m for inflation and a further £4.7-million for future maintenance.

It’s classed as being in the “poor value for money” criteria defined by the Government HM Treasury Green Book. “Nevertheless, this is an enhanced strategic case with strong local support,” added Cllr Williams-Pears.

If approved by the Department for Transport (DfT), the council will be liable to meet 33 per cent of the scheme development costs. Based on the current estimate this would amount to an additional £2.62-million. Including the spend to date that would bring Cornwall Council’s total contribution to about £5.6-million.

While supporting the scheme, portfolio holder for economy Cllr Louis Gardener said he had to highlight the way the project had grown “almost out of all control really frightens me”.

He added: “To come up with an initial price of £40-million and we’re now into £147-million and the risk that exposes this council to potentially is absolutely huge; three times the risk we’re exposed to on a major project like the Mid Cornwall Metro – probably larger than any risk this council has ever handled before.

“We as a Cabinet and as a council need to be mindful as this proceeds how we’re monitoring it because it frightens me.”

Other councillors believed that it would benefit the people of north Cornwall and should be backed by the Cabinet and full council.

Cllr Carol Mould, who seconded the recommendations to approve the business plan, said: “The value of this bypass be it only two and a half miles in old money and the benefit that that actually brings to Camelford and the rurality of that part of north Cornwall [is huge]. The wellbeing of Camelford, and the clean air, can only be enhanced by this.

“The bypass in Wadebridge made such a difference to that town and it made Wadebridge a better town for it, so I wouldn’t want the reasons behind this to be lost.”

Cllr Barry Jordan added: “I would like to dispel the myth that this is just about Camelford. It’s much, much wider. It includes all the little villages around as far down as Wadebridge. I’m asking Cabinet to support this and throw it back to central government to help the people of north Cornwall.”

The Cabinet agreed to back the new amended outline business case for the A39 Atlantic Highway: Camelford bypass.

Key dates if approved by the DfT are planning permission by spring 2026, full business case submitted to the Government in spring 2028, construction starting in late summer 2028 with the bypass open by 2030.