Accident blackspot to get £32m upgrade

CAMPAIGNERS fighting for more than 30 years for improvements to a notorious stretch of the A14 in Suffolk last night welcomed the Government go-ahead for a £32 million scheme.

By John Howard

CAMPAIGNERS fighting for more than 30 years for improvements to a notorious stretch of the A14 in Suffolk last night welcomed the Government go-ahead for a £32 million scheme.

Work will start in the summer to straighten the Haughley Bends between Haughley New Street and Stowmarket - an accident blackspot which has claimed seven lives in the last 10 years.

The notoriously winding stretch of the A14 will now be replaced with a straighter section, and there will also be a new junction to give safer access to the road from Haughley, Haughley New Street and Harleston.

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Last night, Sue Smith, who lives near Stowmarket and whose 16-year-old daughter Natasha died in an accident there in January 1999, said the improvements would save lives.

“This is something that is very welcome. It was announced some time ago that improvements were coming and then nothing more was heard of it.

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“It is obvious that something had to be done and this has got to save lives.

“You can't blame the roads all the time, motorists have to take care too. But this new work is very welcome to us,” she said.

John Prigg, 79, a Haughley parish councillor who has been campaigning for the improvements for 32 years, said: “I and others met with a minister about the road in 1983 and the scheme was not approved because there were not enough fatal accidents at the time.

“As a council we have pursued this for years. At last we have got to this stage, where it has got the go-ahead. This will be a terrific boost to the village. There are a nose-to-tail stream of lorries and cars and we will be able to get on to the A14 without the risk of accidents we face these days.”

Transport Minister Dr Stephen Ladyman gave improvements the go-ahead yesterday, saying it was good news for local people.

He added: “The scheme will also provide safe crossing points for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders and will be carefully landscaped to minimise the environmental impact of the scheme.”

And Ipswich MP Chris Mole said it would boost the economy of Suffolk as a whole, adding: “This is something that we campaigned for over several years dating back to when I was leader of the county council.

“It will improve links to Ipswich and Felixstowe and of course to the area around Stowmarket. It is very good news.”

But John Matthissen, a Stowmarket and District Green Party campaigner who spoke at the public inquiry into the proposed upgrade, said: “There are strong calls from villagers for safe walking and cycling routes from Haughley into Stowmarket and this scheme does nothing to address that, despite £32 million being spent.

“One wonders how on earth we are supposed to get safe cycling provision ever, frankly. There seems to be any amount of money for road building, but not cyclists and pedestrians.”

Andrew Stringer, a mid Suffolk district councillor, said he feared the project would open up more land for development locally.

Work on the improvements is expected to start in the summer and construction will take approximately 19 months.

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