Sudbury Town Council vows to challenge decision by Suffolk County Council to scrap bypass proposal
Sudbury councillors and business leaders have voiced their anger at the withdrawal of proposals to build a bypass, with the town council vowing to fight the decision.
An open letter was sent to Suffolk County Council’s leader Matthew Hicks this week, in which Sudbury Town Council said it felt “badly let down” by the upper authority, claiming councillors were not consulted or even informed before the decision to scrap the relief road was announced – an outcome that has strongly divided opinion among politicians and residents alike.
Meanwhile, Sudbury Chamber of Commerce has also accused the county council of failing to consult businesses, and argued the decision ignores years of previous studies of the town’s traffic problems.
In response, Suffolk County Council stated it regrets how the announcement was handled and pledged to learn from this in the future.
The authority explained it concluded such a scheme would be too cost prohibitive, after a review by consultancy firm WSP projected the road’s construction would cost up to £70 million.
It will instead pursue a £10 million programme of improvements to five key junctions around Sudbury.
But the town council’s letter, co-signed by Cllr Jack Owen and town clerk Jacqui Howells, said councillors were united in their “utter dismay”, and told the county council they intend to challenge the decision.
“Sudbury is so often a poor relation and appears to have lost out to other major road schemes planned for Ipswich and Lowestoft,” the letter reads.
“The town council has backed growth in our area and supported the proposed development in Chilton Woods, but this was on the understanding that a relief road would be constructed to mitigate the increased traffic in our already-saturated town centre.
“The district council is working with Sudbury Town Council on a Vision for Prosperity programme, and we need Suffolk County Council to support us.”
It also called for a timescale for the junction work, stating Sudbury has been promised improvements to ease congestion for years, but very little has taken place.
Long-term opponents of the scheme have argued that building a bypass would be ineffective and cause lasting damage to the natural environment around Sudbury.
But John McMillan, Sudbury Chamber of Commerce president, believes this is far outweighed by the current impact on the human environment, citing damage to buildings caused by vehicles and the poor air quality in Gainsborough Street and Cross Street.
He pointed to a study of Sudbury’s traffic and environmental issues 15 years ago, which concluded a relief road was necessary, and he called the decision to scrap it unacceptable.
“Suffolk County Council has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds studying the traffic situation in Sudbury. I cannot see any evidence it has even looked at that study,” said Mr McMillan.
“No account has been taken of previous work. What has changed in the last 15 years? The council doesn’t seem to even know why a relief road is needed.
“People in Sudbury have a much better understanding of the problem than people in Endeavour House. So why were we not consulted?”
Responding to the criticisms, Mary Evans, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “We regret the way the outcome from the options report was communicated to interested parties, and will ensure that lessons are learnt from this.
“While the option of a bypass would provide a lot of benefits to the town, the cost is prohibitively high, resulting in a low benefit-to-cost ratio. This means we would be unable to secure funding for such a project.
“Taking all of this into account, the most feasible option is to improve existing infrastructure and existing traffic flows.
“We will be holding meetings in Sudbury for town, district and county councillors, as well as the wider stakeholder group.
“This will give an opportunity to hear first-hand from the consultants who have conducted the work and to ask them any questions.”