Opinion: Lowestoft looking to the future
By Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council.
In early December, we hope the first spade will be breaking the ground in Lowestoft, to build the Third Crossing over Lake Lothing.
The decision for consent currently lies with the Secretary of State for Transport and we anticipate an announcement in early December. The project team at Suffolk County Council has been working incredibly hard for years to reach this point and we have submitted a strong application. We look forward to delivering this bridge with partners, which has the support of nearly everyone in the local area.
Aside from easing traffic congestion, I’m confident that the bridge will encourage further regeneration and development, provide the capacity needed to accommodate planned growth and create a stronger community link between north and south Lowestoft.
With this decision just a matter of months away, I wanted to use this opportunity to reflect on how Lowestoft is developing, the role the county council has played and the town’s potential to have an even more significant role in Suffolk and beyond.
Lowestoft is an integral location for our fibre broadband ambitions in Suffolk, with a longstanding aim of 100% coverage and 98% of all Suffolk premises by 2020. Just last month, we were excited to announce that Lowestoft is among 14 towns nationwide named by CityFibre to be next in line for the installation of a full fibre infrastructure, as part of the £2.5 billion Gigabit City Club. This will serve schools, hospitals, council offices and nearly every home and business. The networks are designed to be ready for 5G and provide a platform to realise Lowestoft as a Smart City in the future.
In April, we announced plans for a £45.6 million investment to create over 800 new specialist education places in the county. There will be 36 specialist units attached to existing mainstream schools, with a significant number opened by September 2020. We will be building three brand new special schools in the county, one of these will be in Lowestoft.
Many projects will only be successful with good partnership working and we link up with other authorities and organisations in much of what we do. East Suffolk Council, Lowestoft Rising, New Anglia LEP, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and many others provide local knowledge and expertise to support the ambitions we all share for the town and Waveney.
One such example of this is the Lowestoft Flood Risk Management Project, a major capital investment for Lowestoft of around £63 million. It is about developing a way forward to reduce the risk of flooding from the sea, rivers and from extreme rainfall. The target date for completion is 2023 and when finished, the project will support the economic growth and regeneration of Lowestoft and reduce the risk of flooding to existing homes and businesses.
Lowestoft’s beach is a natural magnet for residents and visitors in search of some relaxation and exploration, but spin round 180 degrees and there are other glorious open spaces, such as Normanston Park and Nicholas Everitt Park. With our ongoing ambition to make Suffolk the Most Active County in England, an app was launched last month to encourage families to explore the best of the outside world in the town. The app was devised with a number of other local authorities and organisations, with new games, quizzes and trails being regularly added.
These are just some of the projects which Suffolk County Council has been involved with recently and I believe it’s a truly exciting time for Lowestoft.
If you have any thoughts about the development of Lowestoft, I look forward to discussing them with you - the council is hosting another series of We Are Listening events soon, and I will be attending the one in Lowestoft on 13 September, from 1pm to 3pm outside the Britten Centre.