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Northern bypass work officially recommended to cease

PUBLISHED: 14:39 30 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:53 30 January 2020

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks has said the county will not do any more work on the northern route proposal. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks has said the county will not do any more work on the northern route proposal. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Any further work on pursuing a northern bypass has been recommended to cease altogether, Suffolk County Council’s leader has said – with a lack of support cited for the planned axing of the scheme.

Potential routes for the new Northern Route around Ipswich. The inner route was viewed as the best value option Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILPotential routes for the new Northern Route around Ipswich. The inner route was viewed as the best value option Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

County council leader Matthew Hicks unveiled the results of the public consultation at the start of the week, and said the cabinet would be gathering feedback from district and borough councils ahead of a decision at its meeting on February 25.

Since then, Babergh, Mid Suffolk and East Suffolk councils have all withdrawn their support after the consultation found around 70% were against the bypass.

READ MORE: Mixed response to northern bypass consultation results

This afternoon, Mr Hicks confirmed the recommendation to cabinet would be to not pursue any further work.

He said: "This is a complex issue for everyone in Suffolk.

Nick Green, co-founder of the Stop the Northern Bypass campaign at the Cornhill in Ipswich. Picture: Neil DidsburyNick Green, co-founder of the Stop the Northern Bypass campaign at the Cornhill in Ipswich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"The strategic outline business case [SOBC] suggests there is a strong business case to proceed.

"However, pursuing a project of this scale and financial size clearly needs widespread political support as, without this, Government is unlikely to even support the next phase when £3million is needed to complete the full business case.

"Furthermore, without agreement of the district and borough councils to build the additional houses necessary to secure government funding (above those already agreed within their local plans), I do not believe this project can proceed with any degree of success.

"Therefore, after careful consideration of the above and the wider political views, along with the very real concerns of families and businesses located close to any of the proposed routes, and all the responses received, it has become increasingly clear that, as leader of Suffolk County Council, I am now in a position to recommend to my cabinet that the Ipswich Northern Route should not proceed to the next phase of development.

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere wanted work on a northern bypass to be pursued Picture: SU ANDERSONIpswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere wanted work on a northern bypass to be pursued Picture: SU ANDERSON

"To bring the uncertainly surrounding this issue to an end for all concerned, I will be bringing a paper to a meeting of cabinet on 25 February where the final decision will be made, which we must do as the highways authority for Suffolk.

"To avoid pre-empting my own cabinet's decision, I do not intend to offer further commentary beyond this statement."

Despite the public objections to the scheme, the report which emerged this week actually demonstrated a strong business case for an inner route to be built - one linking the A12 at Martlesham with the A14 just south of Claydon.

It suggested that the scheme could be delivered for around £500-560m and 15,000 homes.

Dr Dan Poulter has been vocal from the start about the drawbacks of the northern bypass scheme. Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDDr Dan Poulter has been vocal from the start about the drawbacks of the northern bypass scheme. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

That has prompted Ipswich MP Tom Hunt to pledge his continuing support for the scheme.

He said: "To say this is all really bad news is the wrong way of looking at it - one of the positive things is a business case that's very positive demonstrates there is a viable business case.

"At the moment the government position means there is a housing requirement to help fund a northern bypass.

"Initially we had a number of local planning authorities that were really supportive, but the position of the local planning authorities has changed.

Northern route consultation data. Picture: WSPNorthern route consultation data. Picture: WSP

"The county council isn't saying it opposes it, it's not saying there is no future - but in the short term it is unable to progress without the backing of all the local planning authorities.

"At the moment the government is saying there needs to be some homes, that is the current position.

"We don't know if that position will change, and we don't know if the local planning authorities will ever change their mind.

"But what we do know is we are further forward than we were, and we have a business case that's very positive.

Northern route consultation data. Picture: WSPNorthern route consultation data. Picture: WSP

"In the short term, I am disappointed there will be no immediate movement but I think it's wrong to say it's never going to happen.

"There are lots of things that could change but it would be wrong of me to completely give up on the northern bypass when the majority of my constituents want it."

Mr Hicks this week said the project could only continue if it had widespread support, but with three councils and two of the county's MPs - Dr Dan Poulter and Dr Therese Coffey - having made their opposition clear, Mr Hicks said he could not recommend any work to pursue it.

The £550,000 committed by Suffolk Public Sector Leaders to carry out a consultation and outline strategic business case, only funded up to this stage, and further work to pursue a full outline business case would require government cash of up to £3m.

Despite the public objections to the scheme, the report which emerged this week actually demonstrated a strong business case for an inner route to be built - one linking the A12 at Martlesham with the A14 just south of Claydon.

It suggested that the scheme could be delivered for around £500-560m and 15,000 homes.

David Ellesmere, Ipswich Borough Council leader who had been backing a northern route, said: "It's deeply disappointing Suffolk County Council have now spent £9m on two projects - the Upper Orwell Crossings and northern bypass - for absolutely no result whatsoever, and we are still no nearer to sorting out Ipswich's traffic problems.

"What we want to hear from Suffolk County Council now is if we are no longer going ahead with either of these, what are they going to do?"

Nick Green from the Stop the Ipswich Northern Bypass campaign said: "This is fantastic news. Just what we wanted to hear. We will all be celebrating tonight.

"But we understand that there are serious traffic problems in Ipswich and we are working with experts to come up with proposals to put to the council to ease these.

"In the meantime we are just really relieved that people can be confident that this road is not going to go across the Suffolk countryside."

Member of Parliament for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, Dr Dan Poulter, said "I am pleased to have played my part in standing shoulder to shoulder with the Stop campaign, and a great many residents in their fight to stop an Ipswich northern bypass."

"I welcome today's announcement by the leader of Suffolk County Council, Councillor Matthew Hicks, that he will be recommending to his cabinet that the Ipswich northern bypass does not proceed to the next phase of development. This is a victory for the residents, bringing an end to their uncertainty and ensuring that our precious Suffolk countryside can be protected for decades to come."

"I would also like to thank the other district council leaders who have already come out against progressing to the next stage of development."

"It is vital that we all now work together to find sensible, evidence-based and sustainable solutions to improving traffic flow over the Orwell Bridge at times of high winds and in our county town."

READ MORE: Stop campaign urges project to cease


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