REACTION: 'Low value for money' led to proposal for Sudbury bypass being scrapped, says report
Authorities say delivering a bypass for Sudbury is not viable now, but remains “an aspiration for the future”, after the report that led to the proposals being scrapped was published this week.
Yesterday, Suffolk County Council published the options assessment report for relieving congestion in Sudbury, which concluded that, while both a western and southern bypass would significantly improve traffic flows, the estimated cost of £50 to 70 million represented “low value for money”.
The study, carried out by consultancy WSP, found that junction improvements are the most cost-effective solution to the town’s traffic problems, with cost estimates of about £10 million.
The county council is now working with other local authorities and the reinstated Sudbury Steering Group to develop the plans, starting with a workshop in January to establish a list of schemes.
Mary Evans, the council’s cabinet member for highways, said: “This report clearly sets out the options that have been considered to relieve congestion around Sudbury town centre, and highlights the reasons why improvements to existing infrastructure are the most cost-effective solution.
“The option of a bypass was explored in detail, but the low benefit-to-cost ratio means that the council would be unable to secure funding from any of the very competitive national funding opportunities.
“The county council is dedicated to finding the best solution for Sudbury, and I am committed to working with stakeholders to move forward with the junction improvement programme.”
However, it was also confirmed that the relief road scheme will remain in both the county’s local transport plan, and Babergh District Council’s local plan, as a long-term aspiration.
John Ward, leader of the district council, said: "It’s disappointing that the cost benefit ratio for a Sudbury bypass is now much lower, meaning it’s not a viable and affordable option at this time.
"However, building a bypass remains a firm aspiration as we strongly believe that the benefits will increase quickly as Sudbury grows.
"A bypass is very much part of Babergh’s Sudbury Vision for Prosperity."
Sudbury Town Council added that it is disappointed the bypass has been “put back to an aspiration”, but recognised the current funding gap made it unachievable at this time.
Labour councillor Jack Owen, a long-time bypass supporter, said the Tory-run county council had “got it wrong again”.
"It is astonishing that they seem intent on avoiding taking decisions that will resolve the traffic issues in Sudbury," he said.
"This report says that either a short western or southern bypass were the two options that would alleviate the traffic problems in Sudbury, and would fulfil the criteria that the county council set themselves.
"These two options give the best strategic and commercial solutions to solve the fundamental problem of too much traffic in Sudbury town centre.
"So, what do the council decide to do? They are proposing to tinker with junctions, something the report admits will do nothing to decrease the amount of traffic. I am baffled by the logic."
Meanwhile, the Save Our Meadows campaign, which opposed the bypass, questioned why earlier studies suggested the cost-to-benefit ratio would be so much higher.
Cllr Robert Lindsay, of the Green Party, said: "The report vindicates what we always said about the costs of a bypass being higher than the benefits.
"But it then recommends junction improvements, that it admits will do nothing to cut vehicles in Sudbury town centre, and is likely to encourage more cars in the town and may worsen air quality.
"We need junctions that prioritise foot and cycle traffic. The report rules out encouraging more people to walk, cycle or get the bus, because it assumes some stakeholders will not agree.
"It's time our local politicians got interested in solutions that cost little, cut pollution, and improve the quality of life for everyone."
Campaign member Julian Manyon added: "The report proves what we always argued, that a bypass would be very bad value for money.
"Why was so much public money spent to prove the obvious?"