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Campaigners claim Suffolk’s £133m bid for A12 bypass may be ‘unlawful’

PUBLISHED: 13:59 08 March 2018 | UPDATED: 14:13 08 March 2018

Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House Ipswich. The council has faced legal challenges over its SEGway bid. Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House Ipswich. The council has faced legal challenges over its SEGway bid. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

An action group claims its lawyers have found legal problems with the bid for a £133m Suffolk bypass – but highways bosses are confident they acted correctly.

Sizewell C protestors and county councillors outside Endeavour House before a meeting in January 2017 when the four villages bypass funding bid was discussed. Picture: GREGG BROWNSizewell C protestors and county councillors outside Endeavour House before a meeting in January 2017 when the four villages bypass funding bid was discussed. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk County Council (SCC) submitted its business case for the four villages A12 bypass, near Saxmundham, to the Government in December – outlining its expected economic benefits.

The bypass, rebranded the Suffolk Energy Gateway (SEGway), has been an aspiration for many in the affected villages of Marlesford, Little Glemham, Stratford St Andrew and Farnham for 20 years.

But estimated costs for the dual carriageway have increased from £100m last year to £133m this January. And the Bypass Action Group, which opposes the scheme, claims it is a “massive waste of money” which would harm the environment and pave the way for hundreds of new homes.

The group instructed a legal team to look into SCC’s submission of its business case.

Options for the Four Villages Bypass on the A12 Suffolk Energy Gateway route. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILOptions for the Four Villages Bypass on the A12 Suffolk Energy Gateway route. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

The team alleges decisions were taken in breach of SCC’s constitution and are “unlawful”. It claims there was no written record of the process that led to the business case’s submission - despite the constitution requiring it. The legal team has asked SCC to take the decision again in line with the constitution to avoid facing judicial review.

Bypass Action Group chairman Graham Peck said: “The whole thing is astonishing, I’m as shocked in the lapse in SCC’s procedures as I am about the whole possibility of the bypass.”

However, an extraordinary SCC meeting on January 31 last year may show proper procedures were followed. Councillors agreed recommendations at the meeting, including for the council to aim to persuade Government to provide funding for the bypass.

An SCC spokesman said: “We take any legal challenge extremely seriously and we are in the process of responding to the concerns raised. We do have a degree of confidence in our position at this point.”

Campaigners in favour of the bypass say traffic has been blighting their lives. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNCampaigners in favour of the bypass say traffic has been blighting their lives. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Mr Peck claims procedural complaints were only “part of the wider issue” with others including the “devastating impact on the environment”.

Debbi Tayler, a campaigner for the bypass, agreed everyone wanted a fair consultation. But she added that problems with traffic and pollution on that stretch of A12 would only get worse without the bypass.

The Bypass Action Group is holding a meeting at Blaxhall Village Hall at 3pm on Saturday when it will be providing an update on its work.

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