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Upper Orwell Crossings project has cost taxpayers £8million – but may still be scrapped

PUBLISHED: 14:04 14 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:06 15 October 2018

An aerial view of the Upper Orwell Crossings  Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

An aerial view of the Upper Orwell Crossings Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Archant

Around £8million has already been spent on work for the Upper Orwell Crossing scheme in Ipswich it has been revealed, despite the project’s future being up in the air.

Central government had pledged £77m on the build, with Suffolk County Council making up the rest, but after an independent review published this month the costs were found to have escalated by another £43m.

Yesterday, the county council confirmed the work to date, which included design work, hiring of specialists and questionnaires among other things, has already cost £8m.

The future of the scheme has been cast into doubt, with the council stating that it has six weeks to find the additional £43m needed or the whole thing will be scrapped.

It has left campaigners who have raised concerns previously with fresh questions.

Matthew Thomas (front in red) and the Rivers Action Group has questioned why the figures were not correct in the first place Picture: GREGG BROWNMatthew Thomas (front in red) and the Rivers Action Group has questioned why the figures were not correct in the first place Picture: GREGG BROWN

Matthew Thomas, chairman of the Rivers Action Group on the Cliff Lane side of the Orwell, said: “I estimated the cost between £120m and £150m just looking as a lay person at other costs of bridges.

“It’s now 139m. I am just a lay person and I came up with that [nearer] figure – how on earth did they get it so wrong?”

He added: “I believe it’s very unlikely to get £40m extra funding at this time, and I believe they have tried all sorts of sources, so we have done this whole exercise and it’s a bit of a waste of £8m.”

Nicky Wilson, chairman of the Wherstead Action Group, said: “At this stage we are really disappointed that they haven’t used this opportunity to call an end to everything.

Suffolk County Council has said the decision will be made by Christmas, depending on whether it can find the £43m needed Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILSuffolk County Council has said the decision will be made by Christmas, depending on whether it can find the £43m needed Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

“It seems very unlikely they are going to get any funding to the extent they want – it needs nothing short of a miracle.

“It’s all up in the air but it would have been nice to stop everything now and put everyone’s minds at rest.”

The campaign groups had previously raised concerns over the impact the main bridge would have on the roads, voicing fears that the level of traffic being diverted onto Cliff Lane and Wherstead Road would turn those into rat runs.

The way the scheme has been communicated by the council – including with letters which said there was a possibility of compulsory purchase – has also been criticised.

Labour group leader Sarah Adams said: “We are pretty appalled £8m has been spent and we have never really been convinced about the merits of the big bridge which is where most of the overrunning costs are.

“The chances of anybody saying yes [to additional funds] is nil, so we are very unhappy about the waste of money – they have spent £8m and need to make savings of £25m.”

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