The MP for South Suffolk says the costs associated with delivering a bypass for Sudbury are not unusual, and should be considered as an investment for the area.
The Suffolk Free Press reported last month on documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, which raised questions about the potential financial and environmental costs of building a relief road.
These included the possibility that Suffolk could have to contribute up to 25 per cent of the road’s construction costs, and that the business case supporting the project may cost as much as £1 million.
In response, James Cartlidge, one of the primary supporters of the bypass, said while no figures are definitive at this stage, a high cost for an outline business case is not uncommon, but added that building this case is necessary for giving the town the best chance of receiving funding from central government for the relief road itself.
Mr Cartlidge told the Free Press: “Many people may question why this costs so much. But, the fact is, you have to conduct these reports.
“What we need is an updated business case because that will have all the facts and potential routes. We will have a document that is considered and concise.
“Don’t forget, all of this money is an investment because there is assumed to be a return. That’s the premise of this expenditure.”
Advocates of a bypass have said it would help reduce traffic congestion and pollution through Sudbury town centre, while helping to drive economic growth.
Mr Cartlidge said he believed many people in the Sudbury area felt they have “not had a good showing” in terms of central government funding, so the Government’s new £1 billion annual bypass fund is an opportunity which should be seized.
“Obviously, most of the costs of this project would be met by central government, but, if we are not successful in securing that money, it will simply go to another part of the country,” he said.
“We do know the funding window opens some time next year. If the business case is built up, we have a reasonable chance of being considered.”
He also explained that a large part of the cost will go towards identifying measures to mitigate any potential effects on the local environment.
An environmental impact assessment has indicated the bypass could result in increased pollution, as well as higher risks of damage to the habitats and biodiversity of the River Stour and the Belchamp Brook.
Mr Cartlidge argued there would be no way to completely eliminate pollution resulting from traffic and, if it has to go somewhere, it should be diverted away from narrow town streets near to where so many people live.
He added that, should the business case be successful, an estimated start date of 2023 was not an unreasonable projection, but he hoped an earlier date would be achievable.