Lowestoft Third Crossing costs escalate by £34million
PUBLISHED: 14:15 17 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:43 17 August 2020
Costs to build a third crossing over Lake Lothing in Lowestoft have ballooned by more than £34million, latest data has showed.
But Suffolk County Council bosses have said they are committed to delivering the project with borrowed funds, because it is a key economic project with local, regional and national benefits.
Original costs for the crossing were estimated at £91.73million, to be funded from a £73.39m Department for Transport commitment and £18.34m in local contributions – £10m being from the county council.
But upward cost pressures largely surrounding the land – which also includes compensating businesses affected – and costs from delays caused by the general election and coronavirus has meant the estimated cost is now at £126.75m.
MORE: Government gives planning permission for Lake Lothing Third Crossing
Conservative leader of the county council, Matthew Hicks, said: “It is true that the estimated cost is now higher than mentioned in our outline business case back in 2015.
“This is for many reasons such as increased land purchase costs and unforeseen delays.
“But our project team has gone into incredible amounts of detail to give us the most accurate cost projections possible for this report.
“This includes an emergency pot of money should any unforeseen issues arise and caters for any further complications caused by coronavirus.”
Mr Hicks said money had been saved in other areas, including £12m saved earlier in the year from an open tender process for the construction contract and £4.8m saved by building the bridge from a concrete and steel mix, instead of just steel alone.
The report due to go before the council’s cabinet on Tuesday next week said it “reflects the complexity of negotiating land deals, which includes the purchase of private land and/or compensation payments, primarily to businesses impacted by the development”.
The papers confirm that the DfT is not increasing its contribution, meaning the county council must borrow the cash in order to continue the plans.
With contingency funds that amounts to a £145.8m total cost.
The council, if cabinet agrees to the plan next week, is set to borrow up to £64.96m and use £6.9m from its own existing funds to cover the increase.
The report follows the recent unveiling of the Lowestoft Masterplan by East Suffolk Council which aims to boost the town’s economy and carry out key regeneration projects.
Suffolk County Council’s report said the construction of the bridge as part of that was “essential to get the local economy moving” and “will remove an important impediment to much needed growth in Lowestoft by reducing congestion around the town and improving the reliability of journey times”.
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The government gave the green light in April for the planning application, with the county council now set to approve the submission of the final business case and award the construction contracts for work to begin.
MORE: Lake Lothing Crossing original costs
According to the latest timescales, construction will begin in spring 2021 ahead of a planned completion and opening in 2023.
Mr Hicks added: “This final, detailed report demonstrates our commitment to build this bridge for the people of Lowestoft and as an investment in Suffolk’s future.
“For every £1 that we spend on the bridge, the region will see £3 in economic benefit – that’s an incredible return.
“The benefits of this bridge will be felt by the people of Lowestoft and beyond, with jobs and apprenticeships created during, and after, the construction period.
“Local businesses have told us that they expect to increase their turnover and employ more staff, and other companies will discover that being based in Lowestoft is an even more attractive option, with vastly improved traffic movement and access.”
The name of the bridge will be unveiled at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group reaction
Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group at the council said: “It’s hard to understand how costs have spiralled so much in a short period of time, particularly when this has also happened with other large infrastructure projects in Suffolk in recent years.
“We need to be asking Suffolk County Council why these mistakes keep being made.
“If this project ends up going the same way as the Upper Orwell Crossings, which wasted millions of pounds of taxpayer money and came to nothing, it will be the ultimate betrayal for the people of Lowestoft.
“They have already lost so many vital services in recent years, including their records office, their magistrates court, and their youth services.”
Labour group reaction
Keith Patience from the Labour group said: “The Third Crossing is vital for Lowestoft’s economy and future development, and I welcome this announcement.”
“After so many delays it is positive news that we are finally inching toward construction starting - with Suffolk County Council failing to deliver any big infrastructure projects in recent years there was considerable doubt whether this bridge would ever get built. Unfortunately, the time the Conservatives have taken getting this project off the ground has caused costs to spiral and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money wasted.
“Now that the Third Crossing is finally becoming a reality, we must make sure that Lowestoft and its residents benefit fully, instead of the new bridge simply providing a bypass for people travelling through the town.”
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