Bury St Edmunds: Leaders of St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils say A14 toll plan is ‘flawed’

John Griffiths Leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council and James Waters, Leader of Forest Heath Dis

John Griffiths Leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council and James Waters, Leader of Forest Heath District Council - Credit: Archant

The leaders of two west Suffolk councils have said they are backing a campaign against a toll on the A14.

Councillors John Griffiths and James Waters, leaders of St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council respectively, have described the ‘toll tax’ as “flawed and short-sighted”.

They are supporting the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s No Toll Tax on Suffolk campaign, which was launched two weeks ago.

The Department for Transport’s proposals for improving the congested Cambridge-Huntingdon section of the A14 involve charging vehicles to use a new Huntingdon bypass and demolishing part of the existing route through the town, forcing hauliers to pay the charge or face a lengthy detour.

In a joint statement, Mr Griffiths and Mr Waters said: “While we support improvements on the A14, the toll tax seems flawed and short-sighted at a time when we’re trying to boost our economy and encourage growth.

“Having excellent links along the A14 is a key element to success here in Suffolk which is why we have consistently supported much-needed improvements to the road. However, forcing businesses to pay tolls to improve the road in only some areas, especially when there are no viable alternative routes, will simply encourage them to use other ports and road systems, to the detriment of our local economy.

“It also seems to be promoting unfair competition for our local businesses, not being a tax that other parts of the country have to face.”

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For both councils promoting economic growth – creating local jobs with the housing and infrastructure to go with them – are top priorities.

And apart from the unfairness of tolls, the leaders also object to just one section of the A14 being improved. “We have both consistently lobbied for improvements but the Highways Agency needs to look at the whole road, not just one little bit of it – that’s not only short-sighted but reveals a complete lack of joined-up thinking. We need to grow our economy nationally and locally and sub-standard road infrastructure is not the answer.”

The Highways Agency is consulting until Sunday on the proposed improvements.