Third-crossing need raised in Commons

A long-running battle for a third crossing in Lowestoft has reached the floor of the House of Commons, during a debate on proposals to raise cash for community projects by taxing property developers.

A long-running battle for a third crossing in Lowestoft has reached the floor of the House of Commons, during a debate on proposals to raise cash for community projects by taxing property developers.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard made an impassioned plea for the government's Planning Gain Supplement Bill to be made law by citing the desperate need for a third crossing across Lake Lothing to ease Lowestoft's traffic-choked roads.

Mr Blizzard said the bill, which would ensure a proportion of the increase in the value of development land is handed over for community projects, could be vital to realising the town's ambitions.

He told the Commons: "When a council allocates land for development, low-value agricultural land is instantly turned into highly valuable development sites. By a simple vote, it turns landowners into very rich people, but it seems wrong to me that the community gets very little out of that increase, even though the consequent expansion of the town places more pressure on the community's basic infrastructure, particularly transport.

"Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Lowestoft, were our lift-up bridge has become a bit like a constriction between the two bulbs of an hourglass which continue to expand while the constriction remains the same.

"If only a few hundred pounds had been put into a kitty for every house that had been built in Lowestoft in the past couple of decades, we would have a great pot of money which could contribute to what we most need."

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Mr Blizzard was speaking during the bill's second reading in the Commons earlier this week. There was a majority vote in favour of it, but it will have to clear further hurdles before it becomes law.

The 1st East Urban Regeneration Company, which is trying to regenerate Lowestoft, has formulated plans for a new crossing, but to have any chance of success, the project needs to be made a regional transport priority for the eastern region.

Currently, under a scheme known as Section 106 agreements, local councils can demand money from developers to fund projects where housing is being built, but the new legislation would have a far wider remit.

Mr Blizzard added: "It could make a huge difference to the future of Lowestoft. Many more homes are to be built and further development will take place as a result of the 1st East Urban Regeneration Company. All that development could make a huge contribution to our third crossing and make the benefit cost ratio figure look better to obtain Department for Transport funding.

"Nothing else has succeeded in producing the bridge for us, so let's give the planning gain supplement a chance."

David Healy, the financial secretary to the Treasury, said: "It is important that the benefits of development are delivered primarily to the local communities and local areas that are affected."