Tories demand answers to Sunderland iconic bridge controversy

An artist's impression of the iconic Sunderland bridge
An artist's impression of the iconic Sunderland bridge
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ANSWERS are needed about the collapse of plans to build Sunderland’s iconic bridge, according to the city’s Tory leader.

Proposals for the landmark bridge – which would have been the tallest in England – were formally scrapped in favour of a simplified design at last week’s cabinet meeting.

But Coun Robert Oliver wants answers about the process and tabled four emergency questions for tonight’s extraordinary meeting of Sunderland City Council.

He wants to see full details of the two tenders, the cost of the procurement process, specific details of funding and whether the council has responded to the approach by Trafalgar Marine Technology, which has indicted it can build the iconic design within the original budget.

However, Coun Oliver has been told that his request has been rejected, as questions have to be considered urgent and even then can only be put at the annual meeting of the council.

“I think we need to know the answer to these things as they haven’t been published,” Coun Oliver said. “All we’ve been told is that tenders have been coming in over budget. We’ve never been told exactly how much over budget they were and the details and the reasons why.

“It’s important, and in the public interest, that people get the full facts of why the iconic bridge isn’t going ahead.

“They will also want to know what, if any, money has been lost. It will be interesting what the response is to that and also to Trafalgar. The proposal should at least be looked at.” Responding to Coun Oliver’s request, a governance officer said in an email: “The Mayor is not minded to include an additional item on the council agenda for questions. Please note that, in any event, it is questionable whether it would be lawful for him to do so.

“The literal interpretation of the legislation means that urgent business may only be considered at annual council, and the Mayor must be of the opinion that it is urgent before it can be dealt with.

“The facility to consider urgent business is not extended to ordinary and extraordinary meetings of full council.”

Mr Oliver added: “Whilst not wishing to criticise the Mayor, I do think the public would expect the leader of the council to be willing to make a statement on the iconic bridge or answer questions.

“This is one of the biggest things that’s happened for years.”