Northern by-pass looks dead

A DECADE ago proposals to "complete the box" around Ipswich were effectively dismissed.Now, with problems on the A14 causing problems throughout the town, business leaders have suggested the idea should be resurrected – but is that possible?Back in the early 1990s planning officials were especially keen to do something about the east/west traffic travelling from Woodbridge and Martlesham to Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds.

A DECADE ago proposals to "complete the box" around Ipswich were effectively dismissed.

Now, with problems on the A14 causing problems throughout the town, business leaders have suggested the idea should be resurrected – but is that possible?

Back in the early 1990s planning officials were especially keen to do something about the east/west traffic travelling from Woodbridge and Martlesham to Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds.

It could, of course, travel around the south of Ipswich – but this could add up to 15 miles on to the journey.

So the idea of a northern by-pass was born.

Originally there were three possible routes, but it soon became clear that only that nearest the town was viable – the others represented too much of a detour for traffic.

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The proposed route would have run from the Martlesham roundabout where the A12 meets the A1214 to the Bury Road roundabout with the A14.

It would effectively mean Ipswich was surrounded by a by-pass.

The proposal was supported by key people at the county council, including then highways committee chairman Peter Monk and then county surveyor Jeffrey Stansfield – who would later be political opponents although they agreed on the need for the road.

However, there was considerable opposition to the new road from environmentalists who did not want the road pushed through the Fynn Valley and residents.

They attracted the high-profile backing of their local MP, the then Environment Secretary John Gummer who fought a long battle against the proposal.

The Conservative government of the day then stepped in and told the county council it would not be given the money to build the road, and the road would not be approved.

It was effectively killed off – and the "protected route" status placed on the land that would have been used was withdrawn.

And the northern by-pass stayed in its grave until the last few months when accidents which have closed the Orwell Bridge have shown up the vulnerability of Ipswich.

When the bridge is closed, there is nowhere else for traffic to go than through the town.

Supporters of the northern by-pass, especially Mr Stansfield and Chamber of Commerce chief Bob Feltwell, see the route as a vital "safety valve" able to relieve Ipswich of pressure if the main road is shut.

However Mr Monk said he did not think the road could be revived now: "I think there is no chance of getting that road now – although I feel it would have been good for Ipswich.

"At that time you could not argue with the government, they would not listen to what we had to say.

"Now we do at least get Highways Agency people at our meetings with the police to discuss safety issues, but at that time we had to do what we were told."

Mr Monk remembered that the council came under considerable criticism for "protecting" the route.

"We had to do that to prevent people from claiming they were subject to planning blight – but we did get some stick for it."

David Dufty led the protests against the proposed road, and he believes it will remain just a pipedream.

He said: "I think things have moved on. In the event the only people who would have benefited from the northern by-pass would have been some people in Ipswich.

"In the end it was clear that any benefits they enjoyed would be far outweighed by the loss suffered to the environment."

And he felt that most local motorists already know their way around the side roads to the north of Ipswich.

"The only people who are inconvenienced by not having the road are those from outside the area travelling from the north Suffolk coast to the west," he said.

Certainly the side roads to the north of Ipswich – through villages like Westerfield, Tuddenham, Bealings, and Grundisburgh – have become more busy in the last decade.

But is that a price worth paying for not having the villages split apart by a dual carriageway?

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