July 22 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
A £1.5million taxpayer-funded cycle bridge over the A14 in Bury St Edmunds has left the town split, with one resident branding it “a steel monster”.
The 43metre pedestrian and cycle bridge linking Thingoe Hill to Northgate Avenue was put in place this weekend.
The Department for Transport contributed £1m to the bridge alongside £500,000 from Suffolk County Council. It will eventually help link residential areas in north-west Bury, such as the Howard estate, to the town centre.
However, residents living either side of the bridge have been left unimpressed with both its cost and appearance, while local Green Party councillor Julia Wakelam also raised concerns.
But county and borough councillor David Nettleton has been one of the bridge’s biggest advocates, and said it was money well spent.
“It opens up options to anyone trying to avoid traffic congestion on Fornham Road,” he said.
“The Government money was ring-fenced for this particular bridge. The Government is not too keen on sending money to towns like Bury for things that would increase traffic congestion – the choice was send the money back, or do the bridge.
“It’s quite a complex and long-term plan which will take quite a number of years to deliver, and I hope people will be patient enough to see the benefits.”
The current route from Northgate Avenue to the train station by bike or foot is reasonably straightforward, with a path running alongside the A14 down to Fornham Road.
However, the path is too steep to bike back up, while both Mr Nettleton and Mrs Wakelam said Fornham Road was unsafe for cyclists.
Mrs Wakelam added: “Anything that helps cycling is good, and I understand long-term it will be connected up all the way through the Howard and Mildenhall Road estates.
“But it’s a huge amount of money. If we’re going to spend this amount of public money, it’s got to work for that money – we can’t create a white elephant of a bridge.
“The bridge was approved some time long ago, before the Vision 2031 development was planned and Station Hill was planned. It’s yet again another example where there’s not enough joined-up thinking. It’s going to be a wait-and-see in terms of usage.”
Mrs Wakelam and local residents were also concerned about the landscape that has been removed, with one resident saying 33 trees had been cut down on the Thingoe Hill side, exposing the area to more noise from the A14.
A Suffolk County Council spokesman said the council would plant more trees than it had taken down, but said they could be planted anywhere across Bury.
The finished project will have a cycle path along Malthouse Lane, providing a straight and simple journey to the train station.
However, Jenny Turrell, who lives on Thingoe Hill, questioned where cyclists would go from the train station if they wanted to reach the town centre.
Mrs Turrell said the choice would be either cycling up Station Hill, which is very steep, or get back onto Fornham Road and go via a busy roundabout well-used by cars.
She also described the bridge’s appearance as “clumsy”, while husband Richard added: “It’s certainly bigger than I thought it would be. It’s absolutely huge.
“I’m hoping they’re going to plant some trees to the right of it – we used to have one or two trees, and now we’ve got a steel monster.”
Rebecca Hayter-Gare, who lives on the other side of the bridge, added: “It just seems a huge amount of money.
“For the amount of money, the benefits don’t match the cost. It’s unnecessary, but now it’s happened we have to make the best of it.”