The MP for South Suffolk, who is campaigning to deliver a bypass for Sudbury, says he believes those stating their opposition to the project have chosen to do so in “a scaremongering manner.”
James Cartlidge launched a parliamentary petition last month alongside cross-party representatives, business leaders and community groups, seeking signatures from local people to help make the case for a relief road for Sudbury.
However, opponents argue a bypass would damage the local landscape, and they have now launched their own online petition, which has so far collected more than 1,600 signatures.
But Mr Cartlidge said he supported the bypass because he could not see any other realistic way to significantly cut the traffic running through the town, which he says is “making life miserable” for residents of Cross Street and elsewhere.
“Having spoken to many people in Sudbury about the bypass in recent days, I am fully aware that many support the principle of tackling congestion, but are concerned about the potential impact of a bypass on our local habitat, not least the water meadows,” said Mr Cartlidge.
“I want to reassure them that, while we would need to secure further funding before specific routes could be proposed, any scheme brought forward would include robust measures to mitigate against negative environmental impact.
“Some opponents have even suggested that a bypass would somehow obliterate the water meadows in their entirety, when, of course, every step would be taken to protect Sudbury’s greatest natural asset as far as possible.
“The purpose of any bypass would not be to harm Sudbury, but to deliver a better town with less congestion and pollution, a stronger economy and a better quality of life for its residents.”
He added that no specific route for the bypass has yet been proposed, and the petition was about supporting a relief road in principle.
But the opposition to the project say alternative solutions to reduce congestion and pollution have not been tried, citing suggestions such as better funding for public transport, adding cycling and walking routes, introducing speed and HGV weight limits and transforming the current one-way system to two-way.
“Sudbury has serious traffic problems, but building a costly bypass is not the answer – new roads are proven to generate more traffic, not less,” the opposing petition reads.
“Sudbury has been promised growth – but do we want our small market town to become just another large town at the expense of its beautiful water meadows? Let’s conserve our beautiful landscape, not pour concrete over it.”
Jack Owen, county councillor for Sudbury, who also supports the bypass, said some myths about the proposal had to be expelled, adding that while a bypass is not the only solution, it would go some way to decreasing the traffic issues.
“If there was any suggestion that the route would take it across our water meadows, then I would be the first to object, but that isn’t the case,” said Cllr Owen.
“There are plans to build thousands of new houses in and around our town over the next 20 years, which will treble the misery that the traffic causes. We cannot simply ignore the problem and hope it goes away.”