SUNDERLAND’S new river crossing was likened to the Golden Gate Bridge last night as councillors joined together to welcome the scheme winning funding.
The Government officially signed off the £82million needed to fund the landmark crossing in December, paving the way for construction work to begin and bringing to an end years of uncertainty.
Councillors at last night’s full meeting og Sunderland City Council passed a motion acknowledging the Government’s decision, which they said was “central to the future prosperity of the city”.
Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson said: “(The decision) is obviously fantastic news and shows how powerful a combination of hardwork and determination can be.”
He outlined how the new bridge would underpin thousands of jobs and the new North East Enterprise Zone, massively boost regeneration, improve the transport network and give the city an internationally recognisable landmark.
Sunderland Conservatives leader Robert Oliver, who seconded the cross-party motion, compared the landmark crossing to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
He said such large-scale engineering projects had helped pull the U.S.A out of depression, and made comparisons to the present economic situation.
He said the new Wear bridge was also ushering in a new time of enterprise.
Councillors said the impressive design of the bridge – which will be the biggest in England – would have a similar impact on Sunderland as the Angel of the North did on the North East. Coun Oliver said it was even more important.
“It’s superior to the Angel of the North because it’s not a folly – it’s something needed, something useful.”
In an earlier session, Coun Oliver suggested incorporating the image of the bridge into city’s logo. This was dismissed by Coun Watson.
Former Tory leader Lee Martin, an ardent supporter of the project, suggested the crossing be named the Jubilee Bridge as a “gift” to the Queen from the people of Sunderland.
He claimed the Conservative group had supported the project through a time when the Labour group were less supportive of the idea of an iconic bridge.
Independent group leader Colin Wakefield backed the motion, but said he did not support the iconic bridge. He said the actual cost was about £118million, with Sunderland taxpayers footing the £33million difference.
He said a basic bridge would bring the same employment benefits without the need to spend tens of millions more. His remarks were dismissed by Labour and Tory councillors.