A12 bypass hopes suffer setback

HOPES for a long-awaited bypass on a notorious stretch of the A12 in Suffolk could be dashed because the Government may not provide funds, it has been warned.

HOPES for a long-awaited bypass on a notorious stretch of the A12 in Suffolk could be dashed because the Government may not provide funds, it has been warned.

Suffolk County Council's roads and transport portfolio holder Guy McGregor has conceded the authority is faced with "considerable obstacles" over its plans to create a bypass around a group of congestion-hit villages south of Saxmundham.

It was looking for "clear steers" from Government, which would provide funding for the scheme, before putting large sums of money into bids which may not stand a chance of success, he said.

Villagers have been campaigning for the bypass scheme for Little Glemham, Farnham, Stratford St Andrews and Marlesford over many years, and it was one of five which had been earmarked under the previous Labour/Liberal Democrat administration at the county council.

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It lost control at the May elections, and the council, now Conservative-run, is re-examining the transport plan.

Mr McGregor said the A12 scheme is "among the front runners" for a major funding bid, but points to the Government's attitudes towards the area's road network.

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He stressed the county council must have "a reasonable expectation" that its funding bid will be successful, and hoped local MPs would be able to establish whether it had "a good chance of success".

"You simply can't just go out in the hope that it'll all turn out right in the end," he explained, in response to concerns from Farnham Parish Council.

Working schemes up for the bidding process could cost in the region of a quarter of a million pounds, he pointed out.

"You have got to work out your chances. You have got to work out the odds," he said. "We need to get quite clear steers from the Minister that he will in fact support this scheme."

There was "little doubt in our minds" that was a need for the schemes, he said.

The position regarding bids under the second local transport plan changed as a result of the election in May, he said.

"The position is that the bid for government support is made when we submit the final local transport plan in 2006.

"Between now and December 2005 we will be working on the local transport plan. No final decision has been made. The A12 schemes are among the front runners for local transport plan major scheme funding.

"However, in taking the bid forward for the A12 we are faced with considerable obstacles: The Government does not regard the road north of Ipswich to Lowestoft of being of national importance (the road was de-trunked in 2001) and the route to the national network for Lowestoft is regarded by Government as being via the A47 and A11. The new Roads Minister described the roads of East Suffolk as 'quaint'," he said.

He hopes the area's three MPs – John Gummer, Bob Blizzard and Sir Michael Lord – will be able to provide the council with a steer from Government over whether the schemes stand a good chance.

"If they can establish that our bid for funds has a good chance of success then I would hope to persuade the Cabinet to allocated the necessary funds to work up the scheme."

Farnham Parish Council chairman Judith Spatchett was pessimistic that the hoped-for bypass would come in her lifetime.

"I don't think it'll ever come. They just don't want to know this area, do they?" she said.

"We have heard it all before."

She added: "They have got to come up with easy excuses. They'll say there were obstacles in doing it so they have covered themselves."

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