Town's new £126m bridge will bring 'enormous benefits'
- Credit: Suffolk County Council
It has been the major talking point in a coastal town for more than a century.
But now a scheme to solve one of Lowestoft's oldest transport problems will become reality in the New Year as construction of a new £126.75m bridge begins.
Work will start on Lowestoft’s Gull Wing in the coming months as the dream of a much-vaunted third crossing of Lake Lothing is realised - with 2021 hailed as "a significant year" for the town.
The Gull Wing - which will link from Waveney Drive on the south side, to Denmark Road and Peto Way on the north side of Lake Lothing - will be higher than the town's existing Bascule Bridge.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: "2021 will be a significant year for Lowestoft, with work starting on site on the Gull Wing bridge.
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"This is a project that can bring enormous benefits to the area and we must ensure that in the short term local people gain as much as possible from the business opportunities that will arise during construction and in the long term it fulfils the objective of attracting new jobs."
Highlighting the benefits, Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “Like everyone, I am very much hoping for a lot of positive news in 2021.
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"One thing that will contribute to that, is starting work on the Gull Wing in Lowestoft.
“There is much for Lowestoft and the local area to look forward to in terms of investment, with the town’s Masterplan and new flood defences.
“At the heart of the town will be the Gull Wing, improving traffic movement and boosting the local economy.
“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.”
Work will begin on Gull Wing in the Spring after the Government gave final approval to the scheme last November.
It marked a memorable milestone, as a third crossing over Lake Lothing had been first mooted more than 100 years ago at the end of the First World War in 1918.
Former Waveney MP Bob Blizzard organised a petition in 2007, that was supported by this newspaper, as part of a third crossing campaign that attracted more than 10,000 signatures.
Two years later, a Highways Agency feasibility report was backed by the transport minister for a new 305m bascule bridge over Lake Lothing, stretching from Peto Way in the north of the town to Waveney Drive in the south.
Ahead of the 2010 General Election, Gordon Brown visited Lowestoft to show his support for the campaign, a situation mirrored just before the general election of 2015 as Ed Miliband and David Cameron visited Lowestoft with Mr Cameron promising the crossing by 2020.
With an outline business case submitted in December 2015, conditional DfT funding was granted for the crossing in March 2016.
A public consultation in the Autumn of 2017, saw Suffolk County Council release plans for the bridge, which was inspired by the town’s Gulliver wind turbine, before a formal planning application was lodged in July 2018 to the government’s Planning Inspectorate.
This was accepted in August 2018 ahead of a six-month Development Consent Order examination period for the Lake Lothing Third Crossing that started in December 2018.
After this ended in June 2019, a decision was due on the project in December that year, but this was initially delayed due to the General Election, before Brexit and the coronavirus outbreak held it up further.
On April 30 2020, Lowestoft’s bid for a third crossing over Lake Lothing was given the green light.
With Suffolk County Council’s cabinet giving approval to the project's budget in August, the Gull Wing name was announced as preliminary work for the bridge started with an archaeological survey on September 25.
The contract with building and civil engineering contractor, Farrans, began in recent weeks after the Government gave final approval to the scheme's business case on November 25, meaning that the £73.39m funding from the Department of Transport towards the project could be accessed.
In November, Steve Gallant, leader of East Suffolk Council, said: "The Gull Wing will be iconic and be a statement of intent for the future of the town.”
The Gull Wing is planned to open in the summer of 2023.