Petition will not change my mind on Orwell river bridge, says Ipswich MP
PUBLISHED: 14:10 17 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:10 17 June 2017
A petition has been launched to dissuade Ipswich's newly elected MP from attempting to reverse plans for a new river crossing.
But the move is unlikely to sway Sandy Martin from urging the government to reconsider the bridge – part of the Upper Orwell Crossings project, championed by his predecessor, Ben Gummer.
Instead of linking Cliff Quay to the West Bank of the Orwell, the Labour MP wants to divert funding to a northern bypass.
A change.org petition, entitled ‘Save the Upper Orwell Crossing’, calls for him to rethink objections to the one of three bridges.
However, the MP said his thoughts had been informed by a “failure to see any evidence or justification that made sense for building it” – and by the “clear concern and antipathy” from almost everyone he spoke to on doorsteps before the election.
He added: “If I suddenly became convinced it was a sensible and effective way of spending money to alleviate traffic – and not blight thousands of people’s lives and be destructive to the environment – I’d be foolish not to accept I was wrong. But I’m yet to hear a convincing argument it’s either affordable or useful, and not damaging to the environment.
“I’ve met stakeholders in Ipswich to discuss the bridge, and remain convinced. A petition will not make me think differently.”
Mr Martin was also sceptical of claims a crossing would act as a catalyst for regeneration of the wider area by linking the east and west river banks. He said there was already a clear link, in the form of Stoke Bridge.
Suffolk County Council has written to Whitehall, urging ministers to maintain support. It said the project could only be achieved with all three crossings, and that money could not be transferred to the bypass, which it claims is nonetheless achievable.
But Mr Martin said another crossing would exacerbate traffic – which, he added, had failed to be properly addressed – not by a lack of solution, but of political will.
“I can’t wave a magic wand, but I can persuade key players to do other things – improve junctions, bus services, park and ride – and take measures that don’t cost vast amounts of money,” he said.
“A better solution is to take traffic away from the town centre.
“Another bridge over the Orwell – especially when the Orwell Bridge itself is closed – will draw traffic onto already congested roads, past large areas of housing, increasing noise and pollution.”