Major infrastructure projects 'putting pressure' on Suffolk

CGI of Lowestoft's Gull Wing bridge due to be built by Farrans Construction

A CGI of the Gull Wing bridge at Lowestoft, work on which is due to begin in spring 2021 - Suffolk County Council - Credit: Suffolk County Council

Some of the country's biggest infrastructure projects planned for coming years will be delivered here in Suffolk with 14 in the pipeline.

Projects including Sizewell C, the A12/A14 improvements at Copdock and the Gull Wing Bridge in Lowestoft, which are all classed as nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs), make up 10% of all national projects planned for the county, it has been revealed.

A scrutiny committee meeting of Suffolk County Council on Thursday heard that there are currently 14 NSIPs in the system for Suffolk, meaning the county has the highest proportion of these projects in the country.

NSIPs are large infrastructure schemes decided by the Government, largely around transport and energy.

While those projects can bring huge economic benefits, job creation and additional investment, the community and environmental impacts can also be significant.

The decisions on those projects are made at a national level, but require lengthy and detailed representations by local authorities at planning inspections and ongoing talks with the developers themselves.

Suffolk County Council has outlined pressures caused by so many schemes.

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Richard Rout, Conservative cabinet member for the environment and finance and deputy leader of the authority, said more recognition was needed of the pressure it placed on the council, and the cumulative impact such big projects had on communities – particularly along the Suffolk coast where several were concentrated.

He said: “There are currently 14 in the system for Suffolk, with more that may yet follow given our strategic position for offshore wind generation and the resulting transmission infrastructure.

“This puts a strain on us and our capacity, but also our communities who are really, really feeling the toll of NSIP after NSIP coming forward.”

Cllr Rout said the council’s role was vital as a key influencer to deliver improvements and mitigation measures for locals – “the very best deal possible,” while assistant director of major projects, Bryn Griffiths, said the “tens and tens of millions of pounds that are at stake” meant it was “absolutely crucial to the future of Suffolk”.

The high proportion meant Suffolk has generated a strong level of expertise in-house at the council, the meeting heard, as well as fostering relationships with environmental groups, parish and town councils and utility firms.

But it has also caused a resource issue and a future need for more joined up work between projects to combat the cumulative effect on communities.

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