Ipswich/Suffolk: The Highways Agency labelled The Grinch with ‘ludicrous’ roadworks set to tear up A12 during Christmas

The A12 as it approaches the Copdock roundabout.

The A12 as it approaches the Copdock roundabout. - Credit: Archant

Attempts to boost Christmas trade in Ipswich have been dealt a hammer-blow by the Highways Agency which is to dig up the A12 south of the town.

Three months of roadworks are due to start between Copdock and East Bergholt in early December – with contraflows and lane closures.

And today the government’s roads minister John Hayes is being asked to tell the Highways Agency to reschedule the work.

The decision to start the work before Christmas time was condemned by borough council leader David Ellesmere, who compared the Agency to the Grinch!

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer has a scheduled meeting with roads minister today and said he would bring up the timing of the work.

A spokeswoman for the Highways Agency said: “We have planned essential maintenance work on the A12 between Copdock and East Bergholt to ensure that it remains in a safe and serviceable condition.

“The work, which includes renewing the road surface, signage, drainage, is expected to start in December subject to weather conditions.

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“We anticipate that most of the work will be carried out using a contraflow, to minimise disruption, and is intended for completion at the end of February 2015.

“We will keep road users and local residents informed and will publicise further details soon.”

Mr Gummer said: “The timing of this is clearly ludicrous. The work needs to be done, there is no question about that, but why can’t it be put off for six weeks to avoid the vital Christmas trading period?”

Mr Ellesmere helped outline the town’s Christmas offer only yesterday, and initially thought the suggestion was a bad joke!

He said: “This is ludicrous. We have been working with businesses and Ipswich Central to attract people to the town, and at a single stroke the Highways Agency has ensured people from the south of the town will look elsewhere.

“We shall be writing to them to try to get them to put back the work – do they want to be seen as the Grinch?”

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement could barely contain his fury. He said: “This is a classic case of a complete lack of understanding from the Highways Agency when they came to pick a time to carry out this work.

“We are working very hard to promote the town centre, and then this comes along.”

Suffolk County Councillor with responsibility for transport Graham Newman hoped that the work could be structured so there was minimum disruption in the lead-up to the festive season.

He said: “It is very disappointing that the Highways Agency is preparing to schedule the work at this time. Suffolk’s roads do need a lot of maintenance, but timing it like this is very bad for Ipswich businesses.”

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