Government minister admits A12 problems

THE Government's transport minister has agreed the A12 road is “a hotch potch”, but said it was up to county council bosses to make major improvements a priority.

By Sarah Chambers

THE Government's transport minister has agreed the A12 road is “a hotch potch”, but said it was up to county council bosses to make major improvements a priority.

Stephen Ladyman was driven from Ipswich to Lowestoft on the A12 yesterday by Waveney MP Bob Blizzard, who is campaigning for the county to make upgrades to the road and an £18 million four-village bypass its top priority.

He was keen to show Mr Ladyman the “tortuous” road link between the county's two largest towns and see for himself what the problems were.

Villagers in Marlesford, Stratford St Andrew, Farnham and Little Glemham have been campaigning for many years for a bypass, and are backed by Lowestoft businesses, which strongly believe the success of the town's regeneration is dependent on improved transport links, especially with the county's largest town.

After the journey, which was taken during the morning rush-hour, Mr Ladyman said of the road: “It's a hotch potch of congestion points and single carriageways and strange speed limits.

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“I thought it was pretty bizarre in places and I can really see why Bob is so keen on seeing it improved.”

“I would see just from that drive today that they (the campaigners) have got a good case. If I was in Bob's shoes, I would be campaigning as hard for it.”

However, he added: “It's not for me to be behind it or otherwise - it's for the county council to make it one or their priorities.

“Clearly there's local demand for it, there's a business need for it, the urban development company for it has made it very clear they want it built as well - there are all sorts of reasons the council ought to be looking very seriously at it,” he said.

Guy McGregor, the council's roads and transport portfolio-holder has pointed out that it is very tough getting funding for schemes, and they face competition from projects throughout the region for the same pot of money.

But My Ladyman said: “It's his job to make the case on behalf of his council, not to be defeatist about it. I can see why local people are very anxious to see it being done. What I can't do is judge it against all the other needs in the county.”

Mr Ladyman said he was waiting for the regional prioritisations in January, and then the Government would be announcing what schemes they could be moving forward with.

Mr Blizzard said: “I have been urging Suffolk County Council to put the four-village bypass as their number one priority on the local transport plan. I can see from the minister's reaction this morning that if they do that they are going to be pushing an open door.”

Mr McGregor said that it would have been “helpful and indeed polite” if he had at least been informed that the minister was coming to Suffolk.

He had agreed a meeting with Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer and with Mr Blizzard over the issue, he said.

“I recognise the needs of the A12, but I'm also the portfolio holder for the whole of Suffolk,” he said.

“What he's telling us we already know - there's a strong case for the A12.

“The question I would like to ask the minister is 'if the county council is able to spend half a million to justify the scheme of bypassing the four villages on the A12, will he in his turn guarantee the funding of this scheme?'”

Gary Miller, chairman of Farnham with Stratford St Andrew Parish Council said yesterday he was “absolutely delighted” the minister had come to see the road and its problems for himself.

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