Upper Orwell Crossings | The Story So Far
In the first Waterfront Life feature for Suffolk County Council’s proposed Upper Orwell Crossings project, we take a look at how the scheme has got to where it is now.
While this phase of the project began 2015, when the Ipswich Vision Board identified it as one of the priorities for the town, the idea of a Wet Dock crossing to improve east to west journey times across the River Orwell has long been an ambition for the town.
Following central government funding for a business case, the County Council worked with consultants WSP to identify the best option for a new crossing. Eighteen different crossing options were looked at before the current three-crossing scheme was identified as the best option to deliver the key objectives of: the continued success of the Waterfront, marina and port; enable the redevelopment of the Wet Dock Island; regenerate the southern section of Ipswich; relieve congestion in the town and on the A14; and improve connectivity and promote the increased use of sustainable transport.
This long-standing ambition became a step closer to reality in March 2016 when, in response to the outline business case, the Department for Transport agreed provisional funding of £77.546 million for the project. Three months later the Secretary of State confirmed the project was to be dealt with as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). As an NSIP, the Secretary of State - not the local planning authorities - determines the planning application.
The 2016 public consultation was successful at raising awareness of the project and information gathered during this exercise informed the ongoing work, such as the design and alignment of the crossings.
In March of the following year, internationally-renowned architects Foster + Partners were selected to join the design team.
The project took a significant step forward in January of this year, when ground investigation works began. The three-month project, which cost approximately £2.5m, was carried out by contractors Fugro GeoServices Ltd.
While the general geology of the area was known, we had to be certain of the depths and strength of the materials. Boreholes were drilled as deep as 80 metres in places, in order to collect samples for testing.
The next announcement was towards the end of February, when the preferred alignments for the three crossings were made public. Crossing A is proposed to connect to the existing highway at the Rapier Street roundabout on Wherstead Road, west of the river, and at a new junction, north of Cliff Lane on Holywells Road, east of the river. The bridge crosses the river at an angle and incorporates an opening section over the navigation channel. This crossing will be for all users and provides most of the transport benefits for the project.
Crossing B will provide a new link to the Island Site and is proposed to be accessed from Felaw Street. This crossing will be for all users and a pedestrian and cycle link will be provided through the Island Site from Crossing B to Crossing C.
Crossing C is a refurbishment of the existing swing bridge over the Prince Philip Lock for use by cyclists and pedestrians only. This will improve east to west access for pedestrians and cyclists and allows for the movement of people to and through the Island Site.
As well as progressing the design, the team has also been busy holding resident focus groups, specialist focus groups and meeting the public at drop-in events and group meetings.
What happens next? The team is continuing to work on the proposals, including designing the three bridges and understanding the impact of the crossings, before formal consultation with the public in the autumn. This will be followed by submission of the planning application in spring next year, the Planning Inspectorate’s public inquiry before the decision by the Secretary of State. This programme enables works to start late in 2020 with estimated completion in 2023.