Ipswich business leader ‘flabbergasted’ at new bill for Lowestoft bridge
PUBLISHED: 16:55 17 August 2020 | UPDATED: 08:57 18 August 2020
A business leader is “flabbergasted” Suffolk County Council is pressing ahead with plans for a new bridge in Lowestoft despite pulling the plug on the proposed Upper Orwell Crossings in Ipswich.
The cost of the Lake Lothing bridge has gone up substantially – forcing the county to increase its commitment to the project from £10m to £72m. Two years ago work on the Upper Orwell Crossings was pulled when the county’s contribution was set to go up from £19m to £62.4m.
Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said of the latest news: “I’m flabbergasted. We had a good project here that was backed by the business community to ease congestion and open up the Waterfront and it was cancelled because costs had gone up too much. Now we have this news from Lowestoft. I wish the supporters of Lake Lothing well but what is Ipswich to think?”
Ipswich had been left with nothing to ease town centre congestion, no northern route to ease traffic, and still nothing firm about improving traffic on the Orwell Bridge.
County council leader Matthew Hicks insisted that the Lake Lothing crossing was now at a much more advanced stage than the Upper Orwell Crossings had been when it was abandoned.
He said: “The Lake Lothing Third Crossing project is at a very advanced stage – in fact, the finish line is in sight. It has significant public and business sector support and it will provide economic benefit and social value across the whole region.
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“Decisions that have been taken not to proceed with other infrastructure projects, such as the Upper Orwell Crossings, were made on a very specific case by case basis. That was a project at a much earlier stage in its life, where costs were already increasing.
“This doesn’t mean that work isn’t being done in Ipswich, far from it. We stand by our commitment to invest over £10m to provide two smaller crossings over the Orwell and we have set up a working party to focus on other ways to improve traffic flow in Ipswich.”
Council leaders are also thought to have been influenced by the fact that while there have been campaigns for a Lake Lothing crossing for decades, in Ipswich reaction to plans for the Upper Orwell were at best lukewarm.
The Labour-run borough council and then Labour MP Sandy Martin both said they felt the northern route would be more effective in easing traffic and many residents on both sides of the river feared the new bridge would merely increase traffic in the town.
Sarah Adams, Leader of the Labour Group at Suffolk County Council said: “Lowestoft has been long overdue some proper investment, so I am pleased to see this finally moving forward after much delay.
“However, I am increasingly worried about Ipswich being left behind after this huge overspend. After the Upper Orwell Crossings debacle, our county town was promised funding towards pedestrian and cycling bridges, but more than a year on, no progress has been made.
“We need consistent, county-wide investments, not a patchwork approach which has already seen Ipswich, Sudbury and villages in East Suffolk miss out on infrastructure that is desperately needed.”
Elfrede Bramley-Crawshaw, leader of the Green, LibDem and Independent group at the county added: “It’s hard to understand how costs have spiralled so much in a short period of time, particularly when this has also happened with other large infrastructure projects in Suffolk in recent years. We need to be asking Suffolk County Council why these mistakes keep being made.
“If this project ends up going the same way as the Upper Orwell Crossings, which wasted millions of pounds of taxpayer money and came to nothing, it will be the ultimate betrayal for the people of Lowestoft. They have already lost so many vital services in recent years, including their records office, their magistrates court, and their youth services.”
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