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Anger as Upper Orwell Crossing announcement pushed back to January 2019

PUBLISHED: 19:30 29 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:17 30 November 2018

Overall look of the bridges for the Upper Orwell Crossings Picture: FOSTER & PARTNERS

Overall look of the bridges for the Upper Orwell Crossings Picture: FOSTER & PARTNERS

Archant

An announcement on whether the Upper Orwell Crossings will go ahead has been pushed back after council chiefs confirmed they were still pursuing funding.

Matthew Hicks said work was ongoing to find the funding Picture: GREGG BROWNMatthew Hicks said work was ongoing to find the funding Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk County Council announced it had put the project – originally costed at £97million – on hold because it believed costs had escalated, launching an independent review.

In October, it was confirmed the scheme was now £43m short, and said it had six weeks to find the cash.

Now, it has emerged in next week’s full council report that chiefs are still pursuing funding beyond the six weeks, and had pushed back any announcement until at least the end of January.

The report by council leader Matthew Hicks said: “Submissions for additional funding have been made to HM Treasury and the Department for Transport, and officers have met with officials from the Department for Transport.

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

“The work to secure this funding is on-going but we are mindful that a request for an additional £43m is a significant ask of government.

“Together with councillor Paul West and chief executive Nicola Beach, I have been meeting with stakeholders, including the leader and chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council, the chair and chief executive of Ipswich Central, the chair of Ipswich Vision Board and with representatives from Associated British Ports.

“I am very grateful for the support which has been received from the Chamber of Commerce, representing the business community, and New Anglia LEP, both of whom have also written to ministers in support of this project.

“Officers will bring a report to the January 2019 cabinet to report on the outcome of the discussions when they are complete.”

Sandy Martin Labour MP for Ipswich said people living on both sides of the river were on tenterhooks Picture: SEANA HUGHESSandy Martin Labour MP for Ipswich said people living on both sides of the river were on tenterhooks Picture: SEANA HUGHES

The decision has garnered fresh criticism from campaign groups on both sides of the Orwell, who say the uncertainty is impacting on those who live near to where the crossings would begin.

Liz Harsant, Conservative Holywells councillor at Ipswich Borough Council who has backed the campaign groups against the crossing said: “The residents need to know. I don’t think there is any money forthcoming from the government.”

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin, who is also against the crossing, said: “I can understand why the county council makes sure that they have left no stone unturned, but I think they are wrong to keep people hanging on.

“Communities on either side of the proposed crossing are living on tenterhooks until this decision has been made and January must now be the final deadline.”

The original deal was for the government to fund £77m and the county council to provide the remaining £20m.

Liz Harsant has called for work to begin on ensuring the government’s £77m pledge can be diverted into work on a northern relief road, although the council cannot automatically use it for this purpose.

The crossings aim to reduce congestion on Ipswich’s key roads – particularly around the one-way system – but objectors have said that instead it will cause rat-runs in areas such as Cliff Lane, where the main crossing would connect.

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