Ipswich: Town centre traffic revamp gets a �21.5m green light

ipswich: Proposals for a multi-million pound investment in improving town centre transport have overcome a major Whitehall hurdle.

The Ipswich Fit for the 21st Century scheme has now been given official government support after the cost of the scheme was reduced – and the county council committed itself to funding part of the project.

The project will now cost �21.5million rather than �25m and the Department for Transport will contribute �18.3m of the cost.

This move means that the county and borough councils, which are promoting the scheme, can now go ahead with completing legal issues and can commit themselves to any purchases that need to be made.

Once these have been completed a formal request for permission to go ahead with the work will have to be sought from Whitehall – but this would be expected to be a formality.

The news came in a letter from junior transport minister Norman Baker, who visited Ipswich last year, to the town’s MP Ben Gummer.

Mr Gummer said: “This is very good news. It means we are now able to press ahead with the scheme which should make the town centre better for everyone – pedestrians, motorists, cyclists, and those who use public transport.”

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Suffolk county councillor with responsibility for transport Guy McGregor described the statement as: “wonderful news.”

He said: “This means that we should be able to get on with the detailed work and I would like to get a lot of this under way within the next couple of years.”

The largest, and most disruptive, element is likely to be changes to Princes Street between the town centre and the station – including the replacement of the roundabout with Civic Drive.

Mr McGregor said: “That is our biggest challenge, but also our biggest opportunity. The work should make the route between the town and the station much better.”

The scheme will also see a new electronic traffic system where lights “talk” to each other to keep vehicles moving in and out of town.

A survey by The Evening Star at the end of last year showed that 82 per cent of those who replied did not believe the work would be worth the �25m it was then expected to cost.

However both Mr McGregor and Mr Gummer felt the changes would improve the road and pedestrian network around Ipswich town centre in the long term.

n Will the changes improve travel around Ipswich? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@evening star.co.uk