Could Lowestoft get a new bascule bridge?

The A12 Bascule Bridge in Lowestoft could be replaced by a new four-lane road crossing over Lake Lothing as part of multi-million pound proposals to regenerate the town, it emerged this week.

The new bridge – which could be built further inland than the existing one – forms part of an ambitious scheme to improve radically the town's infrastructure and open up parts of the port for redevelopment.

But the plans being drawn up by Waveney District Council and Suffolk County Council would see the town's ageing bridge replaced rather than the creation of a long-awaited third crossing, which many people believe is crucial to combat Lowestoft's chronic congestion and attract much-needed inward investment.

It is understood that the proposal for a new four-lane Bascule Bridge – which would link Commercial Road on the north bank of Lake Lothing to roads on the south side – is being seriously considered as the solution to the long-standing traffic problems that have dogged the town for decades.

Although the two councils refused to discuss their plans in detail this week, it is believed that the new bridge is being earmarked to cross Lake Lothing further inland than the existing 40-year-old three-lane bridge, with new roundabouts built to control traffic. The old bridge would be removed to make way for a new cycle and pedestrian crossing.

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News of the bridge plans emerged as senior politicians revealed they would be meeting in January to 'progress the development of a vision for Lowestoft which will seek to radically improve the town's infrastructure and create genuine economic prosperity'. They are expected to unveil more details in the new year.

Colin Law, leader of Waveney District Council, said: 'Lowestoft has long- standing infrastructure issues and high levels of deprivation and this is a golden opportunity to do something about his. This is not just about a third bridge and hoping in isolation that it would attract new businesses and employment opportunities.

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'This is a broad but detailed review of the economic opportunities Waveney has and we are developing a comprehensive vision to address the constraints that currently hold back delivery of those opportunities.

'We are seeking growth and prosperity and this vision is a clear indication that Waveney means business.'

The town's three-lane Bascule Bridge was built in 1972 and was designed to have a 30-year lifespan.

Because of its age, it requires regular maintenance – the latest round completed on Monday – and it was revealed in February that it had been closed for repairs on more than 151 nights over five years.

As well as scheduled closures, the bridge is a constant source of frustration for motorists as big queues of traffic build up in the town centre whenever it is raised to let ships enter or leave the harbour.

It is believed that a replacement could be built at a higher level over the water, to ensure that more vessels can pass underneath without the need for it to open – thereby reducing traffic disruption.

And any new bridge would be likely to lift and close more quickly, thanks to its modern design.

Guy McGregor, county council cabinet member for roads and transport, has lobbied for his authority to take over the current bridge's maintenance from the Department of Transport to resolve its problems.

Looking forward to the ambitious proposals, he told The Journal: 'Lowestoft has long-standing and well-recognised infrastructure issues which we are determined to resolve once and for all. This will not just be achieved with isolated projects but with a concerted, co-ordinated and sustainable approach to the town's needs.'

He added: 'Any vision for Lowestoft must have at its heart a determination to create jobs, prosperity and help the town become an improved destination for leisure, retail and business.'

By moving the road crossing further inland, the plans could also see the Station Square area transformed – as envisaged within previous proposals to improve rail and bus links at the town's train station.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous, who is involved in drawing up the plans, said: 'It's important that any scheme relieves congestion around Lake Lothing, helps make the town centre a more attractive shopping and leisure destination and enables port-related businesses to realise their full potential... Improving Lowestoft's transport system is vitally important to create jobs, improve accessibility to the town centre and to relieve congestion.'

However, he stressed government funding still had to be secured. He added: 'In recent months a variety of proposals have been put forward. It is important to consider them all to establish if they are practical in both technical and financial terms before a comprehensive package is put forward for public consultation prior to full plans being worked up, which can then be promoted and on which I can lobby government for funding.'

The demand for a third road crossing in Lowestoft has led to businessman Peter Colby coming up with plans for a tidal barrage comprising a lock and two lifting bridges that would allow traffic to continue flowing at all times.

His proposals – based on a Dutch polder dam – would cost an estimated �30m but would also aim to protect the town from flooding and, in doing so, open up acres of low-lying dockside land for redevelopment.

Mr Colby, who hails from Lowestoft and owns Sprowston-based Peter Colby Commercials Ltd, welcomed the councils' new plans but doubted whether moving the Bascule Bridge would solve the town's congestion problems.

He said: 'It is a good thing that they are talking about it, but I do not believe it will solve anything. What it does show is that they may have got the money and just need to spend it in what I believe is the right place.'

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