Suffolk misses out on millions for roads

SUFFOLK has missed out on tens of millions of pounds in funding for roads after failing to put together credible bids for the cash, it has been claimed.

SUFFOLK has missed out on tens of millions of pounds in funding for roads after failing to put together credible bids for the cash, it has been claimed.

The county has received one of smallest handouts in the country in the nine years since New Labour came to power - and £50million less than neighbouring Norfolk.

Road campaigners and a business leader last night called on Suffolk County Council to push the county's case when it comes to fighting for cash, saying now is the time to invest in its infrastructure.

Guy McGregor, the authority's roads and transport portfolio holder, said the new Conservative-run council has been striving to improve the network ever since being elected in May.

And he accused the previous Labour-Liberal Democrat administration of “failing the people of Suffolk” in terms of attracting cash for new road projects.

This allegation has been refuted by the ousted authority, which highlighted improvements made during their term of office and said new roads are not always the solution.

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Since 1997, Suffolk has received just under £140million in government cash for capital projects, compared to Norfolk's total of £190million and £187million in Essex.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act also show the East of England received less than most other regions, with a total of just over £1billion ploughed into the region since 1997.

But Mr McGregor, a Conservative councillor, said last year's election result signalled a change in the county council's outlook.

He said: “The present authority has a different attitude towards roads building and that's why we won the election. We're committed to carrying out improvements for the people of Suffolk.

“The previous administration failed the people of Suffolk - there was no enthusiasm to build roads. They said at the time that Suffolk was not a road building authority and no serious bids were made. If you don't make a serious bid, you don't get the money.”

Earlier this month, the county council agreed to spend £500,000 on a study examining whether to build bypasses in Brandon and next to the northern A12, diverting traffic away from Farnham, Stratford St Andrew, Little Glemham and Marlesford. The research should be complete by the end of this year.

The authority has also decided a new bypass for Sudbury would solve the town's traffic problems. It is set to finalise a new transport plan for the town when it meets on March 22.

Labour's Julian Swainson, the county's former transport and the environment portfolio holder, defended the record of his authority.

He said: “We didn't want to keep spending vast amounts of money on road building as there are other transport solutions.

“Suffolk was a pioneer in reducing the number of accidents through introducing envelope speed limits, which were so successful they've been taken on nationally.

“You can do that without spending millions of pounds covering Suffolk's countryside with tarmac.”

He said he did not think current projects in the pipeline, including the Brandon and A12 bypasses, are likely to succeed on environmental grounds.

He also claimed the figures showing where Government money for road building has been spent does not take into account the total amount spent on road schemes. He pointed to development of the Carlton Colville bypass, near Lowestoft, built using cash provided by developers of a nearby housing estate.

He added: “I think it's more important to prioritise national funds rather than just spreading equal funds to each area. There are different pressures on different places.”

One of the schemes currently being looked into by Suffolk County Council is the proposed four-village A12 bypass in north Suffolk.

Gary Miller, chairman of Farnham with Stratford St Andrew Parish Council, called on the county council to battle for government funding for the development.

He said: “I think the amount of effort that has been put in by the people in the villages has been tremendous. But I don't think the county council has put enough pressure on central government to ensure funding for schemes like this.

“I think the amount of pressure that was put on the county council to consider these schemes has forced them to sit up and listen. Left to their own devices, I'm not sure it would have happened.”

Peter Chaloner, chairman of Little Glemham Parish Council, said: “Until quite recently there has been no movement at all. But it's very important that this scheme happens for a number of reasons - not just for those who live in the four villages but also for the regular through traffic and people in the Waveney valley who use it for access.

“The county council has said it is going to spend £500,000 on a feasibility study but, really, all they've done is defer the decision.

“We would've liked to see it much further along the road to funding. At this rate it will be three or four years before they get funding.”

John Dugmore, chief executive of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, believes the county needs more investment in its road infrastructure if it is to develop further.

As well as improvements in Sudbury, Brandon, and on the A12, there have also been calls to develop the A140 Ipswich-to-Norwich road.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said decisions on where money is allocated for major road schemes and maintenance are dependent on population, congestion and roads' accident records.

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