Lowestoft’s third crossing at final stage before becoming a reality

Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet will be asked to approve a range of recommendations next week (25 August 2020), which will enable work to begin on Lowestoft’s Lake Lothing Third Crossing.

Members of the Cabinet will be asked to approve the project’s final budget, the award of the contract to build the iconic structure and the name of the bridge following a competition held in local schools.

If the recommendations are given the green light, the final pieces of the jigsaw will be put into place, such as appointing the company to build the bridge, with construction aiming to start in the Spring of 2021.

Councillor Matthew Hicks, Leader of Suffolk County Council, said:

“This final, detailed report demonstrates our commitment to build this bridge for the people of Lowestoft and as an investment in Suffolk’s future. For every £1 that we spend on the bridge, the region will see £3 in economic benefit – that’s an incredible return.

“The benefits of this bridge will be felt by the people of Lowestoft and beyond, with jobs and apprenticeships created during, and after, the construction period. Local businesses have told us that they expect to increase their turnover and employ more staff, and other companies will discover that being based in Lowestoft is an even more attractive option, with vastly improved traffic movement and access.

“Lowestoft residents have been waiting a lifetime to see the bridge become a reality, and in just a few years I hope they will be able to walk across it. The project has experienced delays beyond our control, not least the general election in 2019 and of course the coronavirus pandemic. With no other unavoidable delays, we are working towards opening the bridge in the summer of 2023.”

The bridge will be Suffolk’s most significant infrastructure development in recent memory and is one of several substantial projects to transform Lowestoft in the coming years.

As described by the Secretary of State for Transport, the bridge is an “iconic new work of architectural engineering” and will sit alongside the town’s recently unveiled Masterplan and the new flood defences which will protect businesses and residents for the next 100 years.

The report to be submitted to the council’s Cabinet estimates that the cost of delivering the bridge is £126.75m, with an additional £19m allocated as a contingency for any unforeseen risks.

Councillor Hicks added:

“It is true that the estimated cost is now higher than mentioned in our outline business case back in 2015. This is for many reasons such as increased land purchase costs and unforeseen delays.

“But our project team has gone into incredible amounts of detail to give us the most accurate cost projections possible for this report. This includes an emergency pot of money should any unforeseen issues arise and caters for any further complications caused by coronavirus.

“But thanks to the excellent management of the project, we have been able to keep costs down. For example, our decision to put out an open tender for the construction contract last summer, saved us around £12m and a fundamental change in the construction material of the bridge saved around £4.8m.”

To fund the building of the bridge, Suffolk County Council will spend £6.9m of its own money, receive £73.39m of funding from the Department of Transport and borrow up to £64.96m.

Together with the near-unanimous support for the bridge from residents and businesses, there remains strong backing of the project from the local Member of Parliament and regional bodies:

Peter Aldous, Member of Parliament for Waveney, said:

“A Third Crossing of Lake Lothing has been needed for a long time and has been eagerly awaited by people and businesses in Lowestoft as it will bring so many benefits to the local area. It is right that a project of this scale, which is of national significance, should go through a comprehensive process, but it is great news that it is now on the home straight. Covid-19 has presented additional challenges, though it has reinforced the need for the Third Crossing, which will play a key role in ensuring an exciting future for Lowestoft. I look forward to continuing to work with Suffolk County Council and all other interested parties to make the most of this great opportunity.”

Steve Gallant, leader of East Suffolk Council, said:

“I’m delighted that the planning for this project is now in its final stages. Lowestoft has much to look forward to with the prospect of a new bridge, the recent £43m funding received by East Suffolk Council for the Lowestoft Flood Defence Project and our recently announced Masterplan. These are real statements of intent from local authorities to invest in the town, the benefits of which will be felt throughout East Suffolk and beyond.”

Chris Starkie, Chief Executive of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said:

“Suffolk, and our east coast, is uniquely placed to be a gateway to the country’s energy supply, and this new bridge’s role in that cannot be under-estimated. I’m excited for the brand new opportunities it will bring. It will act as a landmark to signal the blossoming of the economy in the town and the wider region. I’m very hopeful that the bridge will play its part in attracting new businesses to the area and increase opportunities for existing ones. It’s an exciting time for Lowestoft.”

Jennifer Cushion, chair of Suffolk Chamber in Lowestoft & Waveney:

“The third Lake Lothing Crossing has been a key campaign ask from Suffolk Chamber in Lowestoft & Waveney for many years. By working with a strong coalition of partners, including Peter Aldous MP and Suffolk County Council, we are pleased that this vital new infrastructure is nearly ready to be built. Its overall impact in terms of boosting local economic growth and the more effective flow of goods and people around the town will be of enduring value to Lowestoft and beyond.”

The report being presented to the council’s Cabinet is possible following the approval of the Development Consent Order to build the bridge from the Secretary of State for the Department for Transport on 30 April 2020.

If the council’s Cabinet approves the recommendations, the next step is for the project’s final business case to be submitted to the Department for Transport by the end of August. An announcement of the company chosen to build the bridge is expected in September, along with the appointment of a new project director at the council. Then the funding of £73.39m from the Department of Transport is expected to be available in November, with construction work starting on-site in Spring 2021.

Cabinet report available here: https://committeeminutes.suffolk.gov.uk/

News release online: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/council-news/show/lowestofts-third-crossing-at-final-stage-before-becoming-a-reality