Legal advice sought by MP on options for new Ipswich northern route
PUBLISHED: 15:00 01 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:09 02 July 2019
A consultation on building a new northern road in Ipswich has prompted a mixed reaction – and prompted one MP to take legal advice.
Suffolk County Council is starting a ten-week consultation on which of three routes for the new road would be most popular on Friday. It will run until September 13.
However Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter - who has always been opposed to the road because of environmental concerns in his constituency - said he was taking legal advice, because he feared parish councils would not be able to express their concerns during the consultation.
He said: "I am speaking to a lawyer about the possibility of seeking a judicial review on this consultation because many parishes do not meet during July or August and there will be no opportunity for them to discuss the issue before the consultation closes."
He was also concerned that the county council could eventually end up spending millions on preparations for the project that would never get government support - and end up losing money, as it did with the Upper Orwell Crossings project in Ipswich.
County council leader Matthew Hicks said the consultation period had been extended to 10 weeks from the normal eight because of the summer holidays, and he hoped that people would take the chance to express their views.
He said: "The results of the consultation will go forward to the business case we are producing - but at this stage we are not looking further than that. We will see where we go on this."
Ipswich Labour MP Sandy Martin warned the county against being too ambitious. He said: "I note this is called a Northern Route, not a Northern By-Pass. I hope that means they are looking at realistic options that would be better for Ipswich drivers.
"I would rather see a good road closer to the town that would be useful for the town's drivers rather than an unrealistic dual carriageway that would provoke opposition and destroy the attractive parts of the Fynn Valley."
Ipswich Conservative candidate Tom Hunt said: "This is a good opportunity for those in the town who're supportive of the bypass to make clear their views.
"Earlier this year I conducted a transport survey across Ipswich and it made clear the depth of support there is for a northern bypass. I expect this support to become evident throughout the consultation process."
Council leaders from across the county have backed the consultation.
East Suffolk Council leader Steve Gallant, through whose district the road would be built, said: "This is an important scheme which will have a significant impact on residents right across Suffolk and particularly those in the south of our district.
"With this in mind, I hope as many people as possible will take part in the consultation to ensure that their views are heard and can be considered."
Ipswich Council Labour leader David Ellesmere said: "A Northern Bypass is a priority infrastructure project for Ipswich and I know that for many people in the town it cannot come soon enough."
However there is opposition from some councillors - the Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group at the county council has put down a motion urging the authority to stop funding the road at its next meeting.
The motion, to be proposed by Green councillor Robert Lindsay, says: "In light of the fact that this council has declared a climate emergency and is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2030, and that it wants to reinvigorate the Greenest County programme, all the council's decisions on major infrastructure projects should now give more weight to whether they will increase or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"Therefore this council will cease any further spending on the Ipswich Northern bypass and instead spend equivalent funds to commission a study to investigate a zero net carbon transport policy for Ipswich and its surrounding communities."
Mr Lindsay said: "We have already heard from one MP that the Department for Transport is unlikely to grant any money for the scheme after what happened to the Upper Orwell Crossings.
"Therefore it is far better that we look at spending money in better schemes to improve public transport, cycling and walking than go ahead with preparing a project that will never be built."
How to have your say on Ipswich Northern Route
The consultation meetings will take place at these locations during July:
July 9: Grundisburgh Village Hall - 3pm to 7pm.
July 10: Needham Market Community Centre - 3pm to 7pm.
July 13: Woodbridge Community Hall - 10am to 3pm.
July 16: Kesgrave War Memorial Community Centre. - 3pm to 7pm.
July 17: Witnesham Village Hall - 3pm to 7pm.
July 19: Coddenham Community Centre - 3pm to 7pm.
July 20: Ipswich Library - 10am to 3pm.
July 22: Tithe Barn, Sproughton - 3pm to 7pm.
July 23: Henley Community Centre - 4pm to 8pm.
July 26: Martlesham Pavilion - 3pm to 7pm.
July 27: Claydon and Barham Community Centre - 10am to 3pm.
You can also find the details and comment on the council's dedicated website for the project.