Lake Lothing and Upper Orwell Bridges
We scrutinised the two major bridge projects in Suffolk: a third crossing of Lake Lothing in Lowestoft and the crossing of the Upper Orwell in Ipswich are underway. They are each worth around £90 million so are substantial undertakings. The County is doing the initial planning and studies until they can appoint a construction firm for each on a design and build basis.
Two strong teams are in place with project managers who have the right capabilities and experience. The management structure appears able to exercise firm control and respond speedily to issues as they arise. So all looks well. We were told that funding is committed, some £73m from the Government and £18m from local sources for each project.
Critical milestones for Ipswich are the appointment of architects, the determining of the ground conditions, submission of the application to the Planning Inspectorate (this is a strategic infrastructure item )(summer 2018) , the examination by the inspector to a strict six month schedule then a decision from the Secretary of State (Winter 2019).
Construction should start in spring 2020 and be complete by 2023. The objectives are to enable the re-development of the wet dock island, to be a catalyst for the regeneration of South Ipswich and to relieve congestion on the A14 Orwell Bridge.
Highways: Roads in Ipswich Area
County Highways are analysing transport issues in the Ipswich area. They are looking at the radial routes from the A14 to the town simulating the gains from route improvement and the upper Orwell crossing. Predictions cover the next 20 years.
Plans for changes to the A14 junctions that feed the radial routes all show very good benefits for the costs involved, at least £6 yield from each £1 spent. This should see the Copdock, Whersted, Nacton and Seven Hills junctions improved by Highways England but Whitehouse and Claydon might wait for the Northern Bypass proposals.
If the proposed housing developments proceed In Gipping Valley improvements are necessary on a much shorter timescale. The developments must support a range of smaller but effective important improvements to limit congestion in Gipping Valley.
2016/17 Forecast Revenue and Capital Spending
The forecast based on data at end December shows two substantial overspends: £2.5m in Corporate Resources due to a failure to find a home for some savings on contracts that was budgeted last year and £6.8m in Corporate Parenting. This involves older children with increasingly complex needs and the increasing use of special guardianship orders.
Lack of success in several attempts to provide additional in county capacity have has finally come home to roost, but this is a service that must be done well.
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
You will have seen press comments on the Ofsted and Care Quality Commission report on the service that provides support for those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. It does not make good reading, finding that the needs of many children in Suffolk were not effectively met.
The complaints reported from parents unable to obtain the help their children need match the stories I get from Suffolk residents.
The Cabinet Member responsible reports: “Prior to the inspection, we identified with the CCGs that significant improvements needed to be made, and a number of changes were introduced. We are beginning to see the positive impact of these changes and the report recognises the early steps to make improvements. That said, it is clear that there is still much more work to be done to ensure that children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities can access the support they need, when they need it.”
The County needs to see problems in its services and respond without waiting for external inspectors.
Old Ipswich Road
A plan for yellow lining to allow the parking issues in Old Ipswich Road to be controlled has been agreed with residents most effected and will be out for consultation shortly. It includes action to discourage parking that prevents buses getting to the raised disabled access curbs.
I have agreed to finance edge marking to show drivers the margins of the road clearly and hopefully discourage the overrunning that causes the edge of the road to disintegrate. There is no certainty of success but I think this is a technique worth a try.
May is now the likely date for submission of final details and a decision in August after a consultation period extended to recognise the complexity of the development and the demands that puts on Parish councils.