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Suffolk councillors lose their way

PUBLISHED: 09:51 18 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:18 24 February 2010

LAST year, I contributed to the Government's London to Ipswich road and rail links study (LOIS), supporting an end to the crazy and highly dangerous way the A12 constantly switches from three to two lanes between Chelmsford and the M25.

LAST year, I contributed to the Government's London to Ipswich road and rail links study (LOIS), supporting an end to the crazy and highly dangerous way the A12 constantly switches from three to two lanes between Chelmsford and the M25.

It is such an obvious improvement – obvious that is to everyone but the nine Labour and Liberal councillors on Suffolk's ruling executive committee who are to tell the Government the plans should be aborted.

The A12 is one of the main arteries in East Anglia, absolutely vital to the economic prosperity of Essex and Suffolk, but south of Chelmsford it's a nightmare. LOIS has published its findings and come up with a number of suggestions, including transforming the A12 into a three-lane road from the Copdock interchange at Ipswich down to the motorway.

Suffolk's officers, sensibly, had recommended support for the road's upgrade, but the gang of nine overruled them. If Suffolk councillors are so blinkered in their anti-roads policies that they don't want the A12 in their county improved, that's one thing, no matter how wrong. But to oppose upgrading the A12 in Essex from the M25 to the Ardleigh beggars belief.

I'm totally in favour of increasing capacity on the rail line to London, encouraging more people to travel by train and switching Harwich and Felixstowe freight on to railways. But the A12 is used by thousands of motorists heading for the Channel ports, the airports, and going about their daily business to destinations way beyond the reach of trains and it's naive to believe there can be a wholesale switch to the rails.

But I suppose we shouldn't expect anything else from Suffolk County Council, whose Labour and Liberal Democrat members scrapped plans for the Great Barton by-pass on the A143 and two year's later sanctioned the Ikea warehouse – the biggest building east of the M1 which will see huge lorries thundering along an unsuitable rural highway through the village.

THE peripatetic Tessa Munt is off on her travels again. Having quit Labour just in time to fight South Suffolk for the Liberal Democrats in 2001, she turned up as the party's candidate in the Ipswich by-election in November in the same year, and now she's off to Wells in Somerset.

Mrs Munt, who was expected to win the Lib Dem nomination for South Suffolk at a canter, was headhunted by the party in Wells (Tory majority, 2,796). "I thought long and hard about the invitation, but as my father has lived in the town for 34 years and my brothers were educated there, it was an opportunity too good to turn down.

"I shall be 46 at the next General Election and I really want to get things done in Parliament. I believe I've got a great chance of winning Wells," said Mrs Munt.

Recent electoral history is on her side. Small provincial cathedral cities – which used to be the fiefdom of the Tory Party – have in the past decade or so evicted its MPs from Truro, Exeter, Hereford, Bath, St Albans, Peterborough, Chester, Gloucester, Rochester, Winchester, Guildford, Worcester, Oxford, York, and Lincoln.


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