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Ipswich campaign groups relieved over Upper Orwell Crossing decision

PUBLISHED: 16:35 01 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:20 01 August 2018

An aerial view of the Upper Orwell Crossings.  Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

An aerial view of the Upper Orwell Crossings. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

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Business chiefs in Ipswich have called on the county council to “make every effort” for the Upper Orwell Crossings project to go ahead – but campaign groups have said homeowners are breathing a sigh of relief.

The winning designs were unveiled in 2017. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILThe winning designs were unveiled in 2017. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks announced on Tuesday that work on the multi-million pound scheme – which would see three bridges built across the Orwell near the town centre – had been put on ice.

The plan had originally been costed at £97m – three quarters of which were set to come from central government, while the rest would be made up of local cash.

But an internal review said that costs have increased significantly, leading to the council to halt the work temporarily while a review is carried out.

Read more: What does Upper Orwell Crossing decision mean

But Terry Baxter, Ipswich Central chief executive said it was vital work went ahead.

Campaigners from the Rivers Action Group. Picture: GREGG BROWNCampaigners from the Rivers Action Group. Picture: GREGG BROWN

“This is extremely concerning news that SCC has put the Orwell River Crossing project on hold subject to an independent review of costings,” he said.

“Although we understand the position SCC find themselves in, this project is a key component of the regeneration programme for Ipswich and acts as a potential ‘trigger’ for a number of town centre and waterfront improvements.

“As a Vision partner, Ipswich Central would be looking to the County Council to make every effort to ensure the crossings go ahead and to commit their financial contribution to improving the county town’s infrastructure whatever the outcome of this review process.”

But the Rivers Action Group – a campaign group representing residents’ concerns on the east side of the river by Cliff Lane, said it was pleased with the decision.

Beth Tuckey from the group said: “It did come as quite a surprise. The groups have cautious optimism but it is not done yet.

“The plans as they were presented were going to turn this area into a major roundabout.

“The whole thing is crazy and we are so relieved we have time to get it in sensible order.”

The group raised issues over the way letters were distributed which left homeowners fearing their property could be compulsorily purchased, a lack of detail over when a consultation would happen and uncertainty over how much of the bill taxpayers would have to foot.

Matthew Thomas, chairman of the Rivers Action Group also questioned how Ipswich could get three bridges – one of which is a movable one – for the same price as Lowestoft’s single Lake Lothing crossing, which is a simpler design.

Nicky Wilson from the Wherstead Road Action Group added: “People’s general feeling is relief.”

She added: “It just seems unbelievable the council went this far to it to the letter stage and not have all their pins in line.”

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