COUNCIL chiefs have approved funding for an 'essential' £19.8 million masterplan to ease town centre congestion misery.

The executive board awarded the construction contract and approved the funding package for the Centre Park link scheme at its Town Hall meeting on Monday.

A key part of the project is a crossing over the Mersey to connect Chester Road to the town centre, via an extended Slutchers Lane leading from Wilson Patten Street.

It will be funded by £5.3 million of Local Growth Fund money awarded via the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, £3.6 million from the Government and £10.9 million through the council's capital borrowing.

Balfour Beatty will deliver the scheme at a cost of £13.9 million.

Although the overall budget has increased slightly, finance chiefs insist it 'retains a strong business case' and is 'very good value for money'.

The masterplan has been labelled as the 'first step' in the development of the town's ambitious waterfront programme.

As well as aiming to relieve congestion, it will deliver up to 500 homes close to the town centre.

Cllr Hans Mundry, executive board member for highways, transportation and public realm, said: "I think it is essential that, as we grow, we have homes for the next generation to live in and jobs for them to earn an income too."

Cllr Maureen McLaughlin, executive board member for public health and wellbeing, is confident it will prove to be a success.

The Latchford West councillor said: "I welcome this – it will make a big difference to the residents in my ward, who are affected by Bridge Foot congestion."

It is proposed that the construction phase will commence this summer, with completion planned for winter 2019.

Cllr Dan Price, who is responsible for the borough's culture and partnerships, said: "It will ease congestion in the town and significantly increase connectivity in the town centre.

"I think it is an incredibly proud moment for any of us to be involved in.

"It is a statement of what this administration is trying to do."

During Monday's meeting, council leader Cllr Terry O'Neill also highlighted the importance of the Western Link, in addition to the Centre Park link scheme.

He said: "The Western Link is a second high-level crossing over the ship canal.

"It is something we have needed for 30 years."

The proposed £212.74 million Western Link will be built if the Government approves the authority's funding bid.

The bypass would link the A56 Chester Road with the A57 Sankey Way in Great Sankey.

A decision is due to be made before the summer.