£118m Iconic Sunderland bridge was a “ridiculous waste of money” blasts councillor

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A COUNCILLOR has branded the scrapped Wear Crossing as a “ridiculous waste of money”.

The Echo revealed yesterday how council chiefs were going back to the drawing board after failing to find a contractor willing to take a chance on bringing in the pioneering design within the £118million budget.

But news that plans for the iconic bridge – which would have been the tallest in England and Wales – had been scrapped came as little surprise to Sunderland City Council independent group leader Colin Wakefield.

Coun Wakefield, a long-time critic of the plan, said: ““I thought it was a ridiculous waste of money.

“I believed it was virtually unbuildable and would have cost a fortune to maintain.

“There’s absolutely no need for a cable-stayed bridge over such a narrow crossing.

“I think we can still have an imaginative design. I just hope common sense prevails and we get a bridge and use the money more sensibly elsewhere.”

Tory group leader Coun Robert Oliver has been an enthusiast support of the “landmark” bridge plan and was saddened to see it bite the dust. “I was aware the two tenders that came in were very substantially over budget, and because they were so far over budget – by several millions of pounds – it was the right thing to look at it again,” he said.

“We have already got a lot of funding, and if we had tried to find millions of pounds more, either from savings from other departments or by taking it from the reserves, people would quite rightly say ‘Are you going to do the same for other things, like the libraries?’”

MP Julie Elliott, whose Sunderland Central constituency covers the bridge route, said it was essential to press ahead with a replacement scheme as quickly as possible: “Although it is very disappointing that the iconic bridge cannot be built, the important thing is that the new bridge, the new link across the Wear, is completed to help the regeneration of our city.”

SAFC commercial director Gary Hutchinson, chairman of the North East Chamber of Commerce Sunderland committee, added: “While it is disappointing that the landmark bridge will not come to fruition, in the current economic climate it is also understandable.

“What is key for the city and the economy is that the bridge, along with the strategic transport corridor, still goes ahead as planned.

“The bridge and improved transport links and connectivity is what our city centre economy needs and that is what it will still get. The chamber is, therefore, supportive of this position.”

Council chiefs will hear plans for a replacement crossing at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

City council leader, Coun Paul Watson, said: “While it is initially disappointing to learn the unique design cannot be built within the budget available, we must now move forward positively towards our vision for a new Sunderland bridge, albeit by modifying our approach.”