Tories back new road schemes

MAJOR new road schemes in the county moved a step closer last night with the backing of influential senior county councillors.At a meeting last night in Bury St Edmunds the Conservatives decided to back the “Ipswich Fit for the 21st Century Project,” a new Stowmarket relief road and A11 dualling between the Barton Mills Fiveways roundabout in Mildenhall and Thetford.

MAJOR new road improvements in the county moved a step closer yesterday with the backing of influential senior county councillors.

At a meeting last night in Bury St Edmunds the Conservatives decided to back the “Ipswich Fit for the 21st Century Project,” a new Stowmarket relief road and A11 dualling between the Barton Mills Fiveways roundabout in Mildenhall and Thetford.

It is now hoped that work on the projects will be given the go ahead within the next five years - subject to Government financial approval in the 2006-2011 Local Transport Plan - said Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council portfolio holder for Roads and Transport, after the meeting.

The Ipswich scheme is projected to cost £15million and will include better pedestrian access to the town, integrated public transport schemes and more designated cycle routes.

Councillors hope the town centre project will help ease the predicted population boom generated by the redevelopment of the waterfront.

“The project will improve the appearance of the town as well as making it more user friendly,” said Mr McGregor.

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The Stowmarket relief road, which will be partly funded for by private industry, is hoped to take much of the traffic pressure away from the town as well as provide better access to factories and to land earmarked for extra homes.

The backing for the much-called for A11 dualling was also welcomed by campaigners and road users last night.

Long-standing A11 campaigner and Tuddenham parish councillor Rona Burt, said: “Something needs to be done because the traffic on the A11 is terrible - let's hope it is not put on the back burner again.”

Fellow campaigner, West Suffolk MP Richard Spring, said: “I'm pleased this has happened because there is an unassailable case for the A11 to be treated as a major regional priority and I am confident the good sense of the assembly will prevail and the government will take this forward.”

At the meeting there was also support for the A12 four villages bypass for Farnham, Stratford St Andrew, Marlesford and Little Glemham as well as road improvements for Brandon, possibly including a bypass for the town.

However, those projects will be pushed in the next round of funding for works expected to start after 2010.

And Phillip Harris of the A12 Action Group expressed villagers' anger and frustration at the announcement.

“We are very disappointed with this announcement,” he said. “It is appalling - the A12 should be a priority.

“The government has been very positive towards our proposals for the four villages - it is Mr McGregor who has been the stumbling block.”

But Mr McGregor defended the group's decision. He said: “I understand their disappointment, however, the government has only given us one tenth of the infrastructure deficit identified in the eastern counties and in that context we will continue to fight for the four villages in the next round.”

The final decision will be made after the county portfolio holders meeting in Hertford on Monday, December 5, while the East of England Regional Assembly meets on December 8 to decide which projects will receive financial support.

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