Construction on an “iconic” lifting bridge that would become the third crossing over Lake Lothing in Lowestoft could begin in spring 2021 if its swelling budget is approved by members of Suffolk County Council.
The cost of the bridge, which would lift to enable tall vessels to pass through it, has risen to an estimated £126.8m, with an additional £19m allocated as contingency for “unforeseen risks”.
To fund the building of the bridge, Suffolk County Council will spend £6.9m of its own money, receive £73.4m of funding from the Department of Transport and borrow up to £65m to fund the bridge’s construction. Despite the bridge’s cost, the council claimed there was “near-unanimous” support for the bridge from residents and businesses.
The bridge will sit alongside the town’s recently unveiled masterplan and new flood defences, which the council claimed would protect businesses and residents for the next 100 years.
Councillor Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “This final, detailed report demonstrates our commitment to build this bridge for the people of Lowestoft and as an investment in Suffolk’s future. For every £1 that we spend on the bridge, the region will see £3 in economic benefit – that’s an incredible return.
“Lowestoft residents have been waiting a lifetime to see the bridge become a reality, and in just a few years I hope they will be able to walk across it. The project has experienced delays beyond our control, not least the general election in 2019 and of course the coronavirus pandemic. With no other unavoidable delays, we are working towards opening the bridge in the summer of 2023.”
He added: “It is true that the estimated cost is now higher than mentioned in our outline business case back in 2015. This is for many reasons such as increased land purchase costs and unforeseen delays.
“But our project team has gone into incredible amounts of detail to give us the most accurate cost projections possible for this report. This includes an emergency pot of money should any unforeseen issues arise and caters for any further complications caused by coronavirus.
“But thanks to the excellent management of the project, we have been able to keep costs down. For example, our decision to put out an open tender for the construction contract last summer, saved us around £12m and a fundamental change in the construction material of the bridge saved around £4.8m.”