I’m convinced there is a book to be written about the sorry tale of The Upper Orwell Crossings, writes Labour Borough Council Leader, David Ellesmere.
The problems began almost from the very start.
There are two competing large transport projects for Ipswich – a bridge across the wet dock and a Northern Bypass. Both require Government funding. It is unlikely that we would get the money for both.
The obvious course of action would be to write a business case for both and back the one that brings the most benefits.
If this had been done, a Northern Bypass would almost certainly have come out on top. But a bridge was pushed by the former Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, mainly because he wanted something that could be started before an expected 2020 General Election.
The purpose of the project was never clear. Was it transport or regeneration? The original “Enterprise Island” scheme focused on regeneration and only had bridges to the island to enable this.
However, the money for the scheme was coming from the Department of Transport so a transport justification had to be found. That could only be done with a large bridge that didn’t go anywhere near the island.
To get Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project status – which inhibits the ability of local residents to object to a scheme, and was crucial to getting the bridge started before a 2020 General Election – it became necessary to claim the large bridge would solve problems on the trunk road network.
So it effectively promised to turn residential roads in Ipswich into a bypass for the A14.
The bridge would generate an extra 1,000 vehicles an hour in roads like Cliff Lane and Station Street. There was no money in the budget to provide mitigation measures for these roads.
A desire to have a landmark bridge saw Foster + Partners commissioned to design the scheme. This added around £10m to the cost – but the budget was never increased.
Four years have been wasted on this project. I’m glad the County Council has committed to delivering the two smaller bridges so something can be rescued from the mess.
We now need everyone to get behind the one project that will truly bring real benefits to Ipswich and East Suffolk – a Northern Bypass.