Funding hope for new Sunderland bridge

Sunderland City Council chief executive Dave Smith and Council leader Coun Paul Watson at the talks.
Sunderland City Council chief executive Dave Smith and Council leader Coun Paul Watson at the talks.
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CITY leaders hope cash for the new Wear bridge could come from a new Government transport fund after they met to discuss the project in Westminster.

Wearside MP Sharon Hodgson hosted talks in the House of Commons where public and private sector representatives said the new bridge and road network represents a “step change” in Sunderland’s development.

That news came after Chancellor George Osborne announced £6billion over three years to fund “oven-ready” infrastructure projects in his Autumn Statement.

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson said he was optimistic at the news.

He said: “The new bridge across the Wear fulfils all the requirements of the National Infrastructure Plan. It is 100 per cent designed and deliverable, and would bring real economic value to the city and the wider region and create a world-class landmark in the city of Sunderland.”

Coun Watson’s opposite number, Sunderland Conservatives leader Robert Oliver, backed the council leader’s claims and said the new bridge was vital to underpin other efforts in the region.

He said: “The Enterprise Zone recently secured by the North Eastern Local Enterprise Partnership will focus on renewable industries and technologies.

“The new Wear crossing would provide better connectivity between many of the ultra low carbon vehicle sites and major transport routes.”

Supporters of the bridge project say it would create more than 6,000 jobs and bring acres of semi-derelict land back to life, as well as cutting transport times, unlocking major regeneration schemes and giving Wearside an internationally-recognisable landmark.

Mrs Hodgson, who represents Washington and Sunderland West, said: “A lot of work has gone in to plans for the new Wear crossing, and if it gets the support it needs from Government I am confident that it would be a major boost to the long-term prospects of the city – improving transport links and putting us on the map for new businesses.”

The roundtable discussion in the Commons was hosted by James O’Leary of TLG consultancy.

He said: “This development would bring a step change in Sunderland’s transport connectivity. It would also boost the value of property and the quality of life of those who live and work nearby.”

Cash for the bridge project was earmarked by the last Labour Government, but the potential funding was caught up in the Coalition Government’s spending review.

The council has now reapplied for funding of £82.5million towards the project from the Department of Transport.

It is expecting to hear whether or not it has been successful before the new year.

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