County Council’s commitment to Ipswich reiterated as three bridges project proves unaffordable

Published

Suffolk County Council is expected to reconfirm its commitment to regenerating Ipswich’s Waterfront when it considers an Upper Orwell Crossings project report.

The report, which explains how extensive work to secure additional financial backing for the three bridges project has been unsuccessful, recommends that the existing project is stopped, and that instead the Executive Director for Growth Highways and Infrastructure, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Ipswich Communities and Waste, work with partners deliver crossings B and C in the Waterfront area.

Suffolk County Council will continue to underwrite a maximum of £10.8 million, the balance of our previous commitment and will require other significant local contributions to enable the project to go ahead. 
 
Councillor Matthew Hicks said:

"Suffolk County Council remains fully committed to the future development and continued success of our county town. To reiterate this commitment, we are still prepared to commit financially towards the costs of building the two smaller bridges, providing we can find significant funding partners to work with us and up to a maximum of £10.8 million which respects the overall commitment we made in 2016 towards the local contribution, less the costs incurred to date.” 

“It is very disappointing that we have been unable to secure any additional funding for the Upper Orwell Crossings and that the existing project will have to stop with immediate effect. We have exhausted all funding opportunities including The Department for Transport, HM Treasury, local businesses and other stakeholders.”  

In October 2018, following concerns about the overall cost of the scheme to build three bridges in Ipswich, Councillor Matthew Hicks paused the project whilst the costs were independently assessed and, following that, all possible efforts were made to secure the additional £43.2 million needed to proceed. Cabinet papers released today confirm that these efforts have been unsuccessful, and that the county council’s cabinet is now being asked to approve an immediate stop to the project. 
 
The Upper Orwell Crossings project started in 2015 with initial estimated project costs being £96.6 million for three bridges across the River Orwell in Ipswich. Costs were reassessed in 2018 and were independently verified by Jacobs who confirmed an increase in costs of up to £139.8 million due to a range of factors including ground investigation costs, changes in bridge design post consultation and unforeseen procurement costs.  

Proposed funding for the project included: 

  • Department of Transport - £77.5 million 
  • Local contribution - £19.1 million 

The Department of Transport funding of £77.5 million will not be available for building the two smaller bridges, as this funding commitment was for the improvements in transport delivered by the single span main bridge.    
 
Cabinet is due to make its decision on Tuesday 29 January 2019.