LOWESTOFT is bracing itself for the most concentrated period of closures on the bascule bridge to date - with one spell due to last five days.But last night the manager of a leading department store remained buoyant, insisting the multi-million pound refurbishment programme had to be done before the town could move on.
LOWESTOFT is bracing itself for the most concentrated period of closures on the bascule bridge to date - with one spell due to last five days.
But last night the manager of a leading department store remained buoyant, insisting the multi-million pound refurbishment programme had to be done before the town could move on.
During a meeting yesterday, councillors and traders met with road boss Roger Chenery who pledged to do everything in his power to ensure the work was complete by Easter, although calls for free parking have failed to materialise.
And Sue Patterson, of Chadds Department Store and a senior member of the Lowestoft Town Centre Partnership, said she wanted all retailers to unite to show how pro active the town is.
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She said: “We can't put Lowestoft down, we have got to move forward, give Lowestoft a hug and say to everyone come back and shop. It's got to be done, we've got to accept it and just hope this is the end of it.”
She said she preferred a five-day closure back to back in helping to prevent the work going past Easter and into the summer.
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“Lowestoft is a vibrant town and this year we need to make a difference. We have an upmarket town centre and the seafront is beautiful. They have told me they will finish by Easter and if don't they have got another thing coming.”
The meeting, held at Lowestoft College's Astral Centre, came after concerns were raised over the next planned closures, which are a result of the work falling behind schedule.
The Highways Agency came under scrutiny after the refurbishment, worth £2.3m, hit a stumbling block before Christmas and completion was delayed when contractors found the bridge was more worn than originally thought.
The money spent on putting up a temporary footbridge, advertising and other related matters has also risen to around £600,000 due to the delay.
Mr Chenery, who is project manager, said he couldn't rule out any other problems.
“We are committed to the date and our aim is that we finish as soon as possible, it is not our intention to work beyond Easter.”
He said they had chosen to close the bridge for five days and four nights, between February 23 and 28 because of the tightness of the work calendar to link in with other agency work and also to meet their own deadlines.
“People are obviously not happy about doing this again but they understand the need to do it, and if we don't, the bridge will stop operating.”
Guy McGregor, portfolio holder for roads and transport at the county council said he was concentrating on building upon the case for more public transport and walking and as part of that they would look again at the free travel scheme made available during last year's period of closures.
But earlier this week Waveney MP Bob Blizzard called the bascule bridge work an ongoing saga that everyone has had enough of.
“It is absolutely essential that there is no further slippage. People are completely fed-up with this wretched bridge and the Highways Agency has simply got to get this work done.”
The bridge will be closed from 8pm on February 2 until 6am on February 5; from 8pm on February 23 until 6am on February 28 and from 8pm on March 15 until 6am on March 17.
There will also be several overnight closures of the bridge in the run-up to the main work and between May and July, further overnight closures are planned for redecorating.
As with previous closures, a temporary footbridge will be placed next to the bridge, while a free park-and-ride bus service will operate from the former rifle range in Pakefield to the south side of the bridge between 7am and 7pm on weekdays only.
For more information about the project, visit www.highways.gov.uk or call the Highways Agency information line on 08457 50 40 30.