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Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks announces public consultation into 'northern bypass' will launch this summer

By Jason Noble, Local Democracy Reporter

A public consultation on a northern bypass for Ipswich will launch this summer, it has been announced.

There have been calls for a new road for many years. This consultation will give decision-makers a formal indication of how strong the support is, and what the best option may be.

A strategic outline business case could then be put to the Government by the end of the year, says Suffolk County Council.

Matthew Hicks, Conservatives, standing in the Thredling division. (7470908)
Matthew Hicks, Conservatives, standing in the Thredling division. (7470908)

Council leader Matthew Hicks confirmed the public consultation on the route details and junction options with the A12 and A14 will be launched this summer.

“A project of this scale can only proceed by ensuring all partners are fully committed to each stage,” Mr Hicks said.

“Today, all councils have agreed the next steps for the creation of the business case.

“The public consultation will start in summer 2019 to allow everyone to have their say and help assess the feasibility of taking this project forward to government and then onto the next stage.

“This realistic timeline clearly shows the level of commitment from across Suffolk to take this to the next step, with a public consultation to allow the strategic outline business case to inform the decision-making process.

“I’m committed to keeping residents and businesses informed as we progress through the next steps.”

While there have been many references to a 'northern bypass' for Ipswich over the years, it is possible such a road could be single carriageway rather than dual.

And the government has made it clear any funding for a northern route would need to unlock housing growth to the north of the town – rather than primarily being used to solve traffic issues around the town centre.

It is also unable to commit cash to the project on the basis of Orwell Bridge closures alone, given the infrequency of such closures.

Suffolk County Council last year announced it had commissioned the early stages of work for a business case which is currently in the process of being evaluated.

Details had been expected at the end of 2018, but this was pushed back until February as work had taken longer than expected.

On a visit to Ipswich in April last year, transport secretary Chris Grayling said that there were “clear and obvious priorities” and there was “no doubt” that improvements “had to happen”, but fell short of committing to a northern route as part of that.

The latest announcement follows stage one work completed in 2017 into possible highways options.

From that work, three potential routes which would connect the A14 and the A12 were tabled; an ‘inner’ corridor from Claydon to Martlesham; a ‘middle’ corridor from Claydon to Woodbridge or an ‘outer’ corridor from Needham Market to Melton.

The Suffolk Public Sector Leaders group – a gathering of all chief executives and leaders for Suffolk’s county, district and borough councils – committed funding of £550,000 to begin work on preparing a business case.

What Suffolk’s council leaders have said

  • West Suffolk Councils

In a joint statement, St Edmundsbury Borough Council leader John Griffiths and Forest Heath District Council leader James Waters, said: “One of the priorities of the new West Suffolk Council will be to further improve the prosperity of our area and supporting our businesses and communities.

“Helping people, goods and data move around our area is a part of this work.

“We welcome the news that Suffolk County Council is progressing the Ipswich northern route which will also benefit businesses and communities in West Suffolk. This is in addition to our lobbying, with partners, for upgrades to the A14 and rail links.”

  • Mid Suffolk District Council

Leader Nick Gowrley said: “The traffic problems that are created when the Orwell Bridge is closed are well known.

“Something must be done, both for Suffolk and the UK which relies so heavily on the movement of goods through Felixstowe.

“I welcome the fact that the timetable that will be followed has been confirmed.

“Residents and businesses must have the opportunity to have their say and then certainty over what will happen, and when. They now have that.”

  • Babergh District Council

Leader John Ward said: “Building an Ipswich northern route would represent a significant improvement to Suffolk’s road network, improving travel times, reducing congestion and benefiting our economy.

“There is still a long way to go before we know exactly what any final scheme will look like, but I welcome this timeline and plan for public consultation as confirmation of the steps ahead.”

  • Ipswich Borough Council

Leader David Ellesmere said: “A northern bypass is a priority infrastructure project for Ipswich.

“This is a major and complex scheme which will require many partners to work together to bring it about.

“We all know this is a long-term project, so it is really important that we move forward as quickly as possible.

“I am pleased that we now have a timetable for the way forward which all the councils in Suffolk support.”

  • Suffolk Coastal District Council

Leader Ray Herring said: “We welcome the publication of the timetable and the upcoming public consultation which will allow communities in east Suffolk to have their say on the possible routes.

“The Ipswich northern bypass will benefit many businesses in east Suffolk, particularly those along the A12 and those associated with the Port of Felixstowe.

“However, these benefits need to be balanced against the concerns of the communities that might be affected by any new route.”

  • Waveney District Council

Leader Mark Bee said: “It is important that local people are able to have their say on the proposed Ipswich northern route and the possible routes it might take.

“We know that there is appetite for its construction, however we also understand that local communities which may be affected must be allowed to fully engage in the process and the publication of the timetable is the beginning of that process.”

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