Suffolk: Cash squeeze warning as new road given green light

Graham Newman

Graham Newman

As residents of Suffolk’s second largest town were celebrating the news that a new relief road is to go ahead, there was a warning that major new road schemes are still years away.

The Department for Transport is to spend nearly £5 million on a new 1.1km stretch of relief road in north Lowestoft.

However two other relief roads in Brandon and Bury St Edmunds failed to get backing from the government.

And Suffolk’s new cabinet member with responsibility for roads, Graham Newman, warned that there was not likely to be much money available for any major new road schemes.

That means that schemes like the desperately-needed four villages by-pass on the A12 in east Suffolk seem as far away as ever – unless EDF can be persuaded to help support the project.

The county council is working with its colleagues in Norfolk and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to try to fund new road schemes – although the LEP’s £39million budget is relatively modest.

The cost of a basic by-pass for the four villages was estimated at £32 million several years ago – and the current budget is for road schemes across the two counties.

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Mr Newman said: “While we accept that the four villages by-pass is desperately needed, it is clear that it would require substantial money from other sources – by which I mean EDF – but looking at what has been happening I think we have a long way to go on that.”

When the Sizewell C proposals were first unveiled by EDF in November last year, the company said it would not be prepared to pay for the whole by-pass and instead proposed a smaller relief road for Farnham alone.

Now there are fears that if the power station does go ahead that there will be even less for community projects.

Mr Newman insisted that the bypass was vital to the whole area, and that any EDF funds for improvements to the A12 south of Sizewell should be channelled into that project rather than spent on smaller schemes that could set back the prospects of a full bypass by years, if not decades.

Another road in need of improvement is the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon – at one stage it was thought possible that a toll relief road could be built, but that is now looking less likely as the government considers its options.

However the £39 million that the LEP controls for road improvements in region is on a different scale to the amount needed for that – the previous government’s scheme to improve the A14 was abandoned by the new administration as its costs rose well over £1 billion.

Mr Newman did welcome the Lowestoft road proposal as a help for the town. He said: “This is a much-needed new section of road in Lowestoft so I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to convince the Government to fund it.”

We have been running the Bypass 4 the Villages campaign to support residents of the four coastal villages wanting traffic diverted away from their homes.