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Additional £20million of investment for Suffolk's highways set to be approved



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Additional investment of £20million in Suffolk’s highways is set to be approved next week, as a new report says Suffolk gets around half the maintenance budget it needs.

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet on Tuesday is recommended to approve £10m for an increased programme of road drainage, and a further £10m on footpath improvements.

But the report for the cabinet meeting said that to achieve a ‘steady state condition’ – one which remains static with no overall deterioration or improvement, ‘it is estimated that maintenance funding needs to be around double the levels historically received from successive governments, and total around £60m per annum’.

Paul West, Conservative County Council cabinet member for operational highways and flooding. Pictures: Suffolk County Council.
Paul West, Conservative County Council cabinet member for operational highways and flooding. Pictures: Suffolk County Council.

Paul West, Conservative county council cabinet member for operational highways and flooding, said: “We are committed to doing more to invest in and improve on the county’s drainage systems and footways.

“This proposal for an extra £20m across the two areas will enable our highways teams to bolster its current programmes to further resolve drainage issues, where there may be property or significant highway flooding; or footway improvements to provide a safer and more accessible network in urban and busy rural areas.

“Should this investment be agreed, I look forward to working closely with the teams to ensure that the additional funding is assigned appropriately, targeting areas that require essential improvements, on a priority basis.

Keith Welham, highways and transport spokesman from the opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group.
Keith Welham, highways and transport spokesman from the opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group.

“I will continue to keep Suffolk’s residents informed on how any additional funding is planned to be used.”

The work, which will be up to 2024/25, includes drainage work at targeted locations of flooding and will run in parallel with existing drainage work programmes.

For the pavement upgrades, busy footpaths in both towns and rural areas are set to be prioritised, and hopes to encourage people to walk more for short journeys.

In March it emerged that the county had a 10-year backlog of flooding issues with 845 problem spots.

Latest data published for this week’s full council meeting indicated that 66 problem spots have been repaired since the start of April, with 85 sites in the 2021/22 main programme for construction or design to be completed this year.

Keith Welham, highways and transport spokesman from the opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group, said: “The funding for dealing with flooding is welcomed, but this comes after years of underfunding flooding prevention measures which has resulted in deterioration of many of our roads.

“This proves the Conservatives have presided over a false economy; the amount of work needed now is much greater and construction costs have escalated.

“They have not funded the maintenance that prevents flooding, and will now have to spend more money to carry out remedial works.

“Flooded roads and footpaths, and badly maintained surfacing, deter cycling and walking.

“If we have a genuine desire for greener travel, it’s vital we programme now for improvements across the county to start as soon as possible.

“I welcome the funding for improving footways but this can’t just be a short-term fix; continued funding for years to come is essential.”

Cabinet will decide on the investment from 2pm on Tuesday.