In this article taken from his column in Friday's Ipswich Star, Ipswich's new MP, Sandy Martin sets out his position on the Upper Orwell Crossings project.
When I first saw the Upper Orwell Crossings project I was surprised that it included not only 2 bridges to the Wet-Dock island but also a large arched bridge carrying traffic high over the upper docks area without accessing the island at all.
I am fully in favour of developing the wet dock island.
We need to enhance the tourist and boat-building potential on the island, and also to introduce some University-linked activity there. To do that we need to have access at the south end of the island, both for traffic including lorries and for pedestrians and cyclists. The Borough, the County, the Chamber of Commerce, Ipswich Vision, the Business Improvement District, the Local Enterprise Partnership, Associated British Ports, almost all the local businesses and all the political parties in Ipswich agree about these two bridges.
I do not intend to do anything to jeopardise the building of these two bridges.
But the big bridge has nothing to do with the regeneration of the island site. It’s meant to relieve congestion in Ipswich Town Centre and I’m not at all clear how it’s going to do that.
The whole business case for the bridge assumes it will divert thousands of vehicles every day from the A14 on to Ipswich’s already busy roads. It will effectively turn Ipswich into a bypass for the A14. It will massively increase the traffic in Cliff Lane, Clapgate Lane, Landseer Road, Station Street, Stonelodge Lane, Wherstead Road and many other roads, increasing congestion, not relieving it.
The big bridge is supposed to help link the town centre and Waterfront and enable development in the Star Lane area. But the only way it can do this is if the old plans to make Star Lane two-way are revived. If College and Key Street were even partially closed there would be horrendous extra traffic in Crown Street and other routes north of the Town Centre.
When the Orwell Bridge is fully or partially closed – something which seems to be happening more and more frequently – the new crossing will drag even more lorries off the A14, along Nacton Road and Landseer Road, over the bridge high above the Waterfront, and then down onto Wherstead Road. Surely it has to be better to take them up the A12 and across to the Bury Rd junction via a new northern route.
There are still many unanswered questions about the potentially negative impact the big bridge would have on the operation of the port and the marina.
I have spoken to several people associated with the project who, in private, express grave doubts about the practicality, deliverability and usefulness of the big bridge. People on the doorstep in roads affected convinced me that there were large numbers of people who felt their lives would be blighted by the extra traffic if the bridge was ever built.
That’s when I decided to make the attempt to get the Department for Transport to look again at the big bridge and to ask if they would transfer the money to a Northern Bypass instead. I put a pledge to do this on virtually every piece of election material the Labour Party distributed, and mentioned it at virtually every hustings and on every radio interview. My position on this bridge cannot have been a sudden shock to anybody.
It is not my decision whether this bridge is built or not. If the County Council and Government want to build the bridge, then the bridge will be built, whether I object to it or not. But if I can get people to look again at the project, and if it becomes apparent to them that there is a better way forward, I might be able to save our town, and our county, and the taxpayers of Britain, millions of pounds in unnecessary development costs for a project that will not go ahead.