Anger as bypass plans are snubbed

A TRAFFIC-choked town has lost its 30-year battle for a much-needed bypass after the proposed multi-million pound scheme was rejected by the Department of Transport.

A TRAFFIC-choked town has lost its 30-year battle for a much-needed bypass after the proposed multi-million pound scheme was rejected by the Department of Transport.

Local Transport Minister Tony McNulty's decision to reject Sudbury's £30million western bypass for "environmental reasons" could mean the town will have to wait at least another 10 years for the much needed route.

Sudbury is already suffering serious traffic problems due to much expansion in recent years.

And with major housing and industrial schemes earmarked for the town and nearby Great Cornard in the near future, many fear the current road infrastructure will not be able to cope and will bring traffic to a standstill.

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South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo, who has backed the bypass campaign for several years, hit out at the Government's decision yesterday, saying: "This is a great disappointment and a very big blow for everyone in the town. We had a little bit of resistance from people in Essex, but as far as I know everybody in Suffolk backed this scheme.

"Sudbury has traffic problems and all the proposed new developments only underlines the need for this bypass.

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"I think the Government has made a mistake and without this much needed road the traffic problems are going to get significantly worse. We will not give up and will continue with the campaign, I will now seek a meeting with the minister to discuss the issues that have been raised."

Suffolk County Council approved the 3.2km bypass earlier this year and hoped it would receive Government backing to enable it to be included in the next phase of the Local Transport Plan between 2006 and 2011.

If the Government refuses to change its decision Suffolk County Council may not be able to resubmit the scheme until the next transport plan, which will end around 2016.

Fears for the proposed route surfaced earlier this year when Government officials warned it would not be approved unless it got backing from the relevant authorities in Essex.

A small section of the road would cross the county border into Essex on land which comes under the authority of Braintree District Council.

Despite a number of meetings, delegates from Suffolk have failed to convince their council counterparts in Essex to back the scheme.

Essex County Council, Braintree District Council and Halstead Town Council fear the bypass would generate more traffic on the A131 between Sudbury and Halstead, and could damage the demand for Halstead's own bypass.

The Essex authorities also claim there is little justification for the scheme and are concerned about the environmental impact it would have on communities along the A131. These have proved to be a fatal blow for the Sudbury bypass.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: "Ministers have concluded that the adverse environmental impacts of the scheme, particularly on the landscape, biodiversity and heritage resources, outweigh the positive transport and economic benefits of removing through traffic from the town.

"In view of these impacts, the scheme does not provide good value for money and ministers have therefore rejected the proposal."

Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for sustainable environment, planning and transport Julian Swainson said: "I can fully understand why the people of Sudbury are very disappointed by this decision.

"We will have a careful look at the reasons for the minister's decision and then we will make a considered response and look at how we can take matters forward."

Despite the disappointment in Suffolk, councillors in Essex have welcomed the decision, but say the will continue to discuss the matter to see if the concerns can be overcome.

Essex County Council's portfolio holder for highways and transportation Rodney Bass said: "Government officials warned some months ago that this scheme wouldn't get approved without the consent of Essex County Council, so the decision comes as no surprise.

"Suffolk County Council is aware we do have some reservations about the proposed bypass, but we hope that over the next six-months or so we can continue to discuss the matter to try and overcome the concerns."

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