Judy Terry is a marketing professional and a former local councillor in Suffolk.
Those of us who have been dipping in and out of potholes across Suffolk’s streets in recent years will undoubtedly be delighted that Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet approved an extra £10 million to repair and resurface local roads in villages and residential areas across Suffolk.
This investment would nearly double Suffolk Highways’ £11 million annual road maintenance budget, but be targeted at smaller residential streets, which are rarely prioritised compared with the A and B roads and have suffered serious neglect in some locations.
Now, the Council has at last recognised the importance of improving roads for residents following a significant financial commitment to pavement maintenance, drainage improvement schemes, and repairing road signs.
It is hoped that the extra £10 million boost to resurface some local roads, minor rural roads and urban cul-de-sacs will reduce new potholes and emergency repair budgets in these locations which accounted for two out of three defects reported by the public between 2020 and 2023.
It is worth noting that drivers can make a claim against the Council when serious damage to their cars results from hitting a pothole, which usually happens in bad weather when there is poor visibility. Having a safe road network also supports the local economy, enabling home deliveries and providing easier access for essential services and tradespeople.
Using more sustainable materials, such as warm mix asphalts with a lower CO2 footprint than traditional hot mix asphalts, which include recycled materials, will have a more positive impact on the environment.
Cllr. Paul West, the Cabinet Member for Ipswich and Operational Highways, confirms:
“This major investment will improve roads where people actually live, in estates or off the beaten track in villages, needing some love and attention.
“Resurfacing these roads, rather than repairing them when potholes appear, should reduce ongoing maintenance costs, our carbon footprint and local disruption. The plan is to also encourage more safe walking and cycling.
“Our teams are currently identifying priorities with a view to delivering works during the next year if the extra investment is agreed.”
In another boost to the local economy, the Government has confirmed funding up to £54 million of the estimated £64 million cost for a transformative package of improvements as part of the County’s A12 Major Road Network scheme for upgrading the key roundabouts, a new dual carriageway section, and connecting housing to local employment and retail areas. The balance of the budget will be funded by local development contributions, including from Sizewell C.
Cllr. Richard Smith MVO, Cabinet member for Economic Development, explains that:
“The County has fought long and hard for this scheme, so I am pleased that the government has announced its commitment to fund most of the costs. These improvements will future-proof the A12, which is the key link between our two largest towns, Ipswich and Lowestoft, delivering major benefits to local communities as well as businesses needing access across Suffolk. For example, Felixstowe is Europe’s largest port, super-efficient and handling goods from across the globe, whilst Lowestoft is now a leading base for the off-shore wind sector.
“The A12 is a critical bottleneck in accessing the East Suffolk coast, which is the location of several Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. This funding will allow us to meet Sizewell C timescales, minimising congestion and network disruption during construction.”
These road improvements are long overdue. Tourism is another major contributor to the county’s economy, suffering serious decline during Covid and only beginning to recover. Easy access to the coast and historic sites will be key to the industry’s long-term revival and employment.
For too long, Suffolk has been neglected by successive governments, both Labour and Conservative, ignoring opportunities to invest, opportunities which would attract further private investment.
As Andrew Summers, Chief Executive of Transport East confirms:
“We welcome the Government’s commitment, long agreed by the Transport East partnership as a regional priority
“The scheme will provide a more reliable journey for people and goods along one of the region’s most important routes, boosting business and supporting better bus, cycling and walking provision.”
Maintaining road infrastructure in future will be key to managing much-needed economic growth. However, electric vehicles are currently exempt from paying road tax; this is unsustainable and should be reviewed. The alternative appears to be charging drivers per mile for using their cars, which is effectively penalising people, especially those in rural areas and small towns, who rely on their vehicles. It would also add to the cost of living crisis because businesses would have to add these additional costs to prices charged to customers.
It’s also rumoured that the Government is considering fining people for parking on pavements. There is no alternative for many people living in small terraced houses along narrow roads in places like Ipswich.