Villages may yet get vital bypass
By Graham DinesPolitical EditorHOPES are high that a bypass, abandoned nine years ago, may yet be built for four villages that straddle one of the county's busiest roads.
By Graham Dines
HOPES are high that a bypass, abandoned nine years ago, may yet be built for four villages that straddle one of the county's busiest roads.
A five-mile stretch of the A12 between Saxmundham and Wickham Market slices through four villages - Farnham, Stratford St Andrew, Little Glenham, and Marlesford.
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Dubbed at the time the most dangerous road in Suffolk, it claimed the lives of 17 people with another 31 seriously injured between 1978 and 1993.
The Department of Transport gave the go-ahead for the bypass in November 1993, just two months after the East Anglian Daily Times launched a Fight for a Safe A12 campaign.
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But just as work on the Government-funded £20million dual carriageway was about to begin in 1995, Whitehall spending cuts stopped the project and it has been in a drawer ever since.
Now that responsibility for the A12 has passed to Suffolk County Council, a proposal for a single carriageway, £18.4m bypass looks set to be included in its next local transport plan.
Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer - who has championed the case for the by-pass - met with highways officials in Ipswich yesterday to discuss scheme.
Speaking afterwards, he said: “They have given me real hope that this long-overdue improvement could be given priority. The villages have suffered long enough from traffic thundering through them.
“But a bypass will have a major effect on investment potential in both Leiston and Lowestoft, which are suffering because the road link south is slow and dangerous.”
Judith Spatchett, chairman of Farnham Parish Council, said she was encouraged by the signals coming from Mr Gummer and the county council. “We have made meetings with county representatives and it seems they believe that we need the bypass. The amount of heavy traffic is increasing all the time,” she added.
“While we were grateful when the speed limit was reduced to 30mph through Farnham, that has created an additional problem because congestion is now building up in the village.”
The section of the A12 from Bucklesham, east of Ipswich, to Lowestoft was de-trunked by the Government two years' ago.
That meant responsibility for improvements and safety measures passed from Whitehall to Suffolk County Council.
However, the county council still needs ministerial sanction to carry out major road projects, which are funded through grants once its local transport plan has been approved.
The next five-year plan will run from 2006 to 2011 and Suffolk County Council is now considering which major projects to include.
Julian Swainson, its executive portfolio holder for environment and transport, said the need for the A12 bypass appeared compelling.
“Although no Government could support the complete dualling of the A12, the case for a bypass for the four villages is very strong indeed,” he added.
“We are consulting communities throughout Suffolk on around a dozen major schemes and the executive committee on September 7 will put them in priority order and decide which ones should be included in the next five-year road programme.
“Suffolk County Council is not a road-building authority - we investigate the alternatives because we are conscious of the effect on the environment.
“However, we are not against new bypasses if there are overwhelming factors, including safety, and from my own knowledge of these villages, there is no doubt an exceptionally strong case can be made.”
The most recent serious accident on the stretch of road being considered for a bypass was on June 6, when there was a head-on collision at Little Glemham involving two cars.
Two teenagers, including Mildenhall Fen Tigers speedway star James Brundle, suffered serious injuries in the accident.