Next step in road to iconic Wear bridge

Plans to build a new iconic Wear bridge move to the next stage this week.

In a massive public consultation exercise, most Wearsiders thought having a striking design for Sunderland's new Wear Bridgewas important, butthey also said thatit was very importantto minimise any impact on the council tax.

Now Sunderland Council's decision-making cabinetwill meet on Wednesday to consider further workon thecosts and technical aspects of theconcept design for the bridge.

The concept design has been described as 'iconic' because its two masts could be nearly 700ft tall, making it a regional landmark and the first of its kindanywhere in the world.

Council leader Paul Watson said: "The construction of a new bridge across the Wear issomething that happens very rarely.

"This is a chance todo something that will add value to the city landscape and perhaps provide a new, iconicsymbol for the city that will raise the city's profile nationally and across the world.

"The concept design seems tohave touched a chord with people in Sunderland and we are listening to what they have said,particularly in relation to minimising the impact on council tax.

"In our hearts we want a striking new bridge that everyone can be proud of.But in our heads, in thiseconomic climate, we have to look very carefully at the actual costs and funding for the bridge as well as the technical aspects that haven't yet been explored because it is still a concept, not a finished design."

A new Wear bridge is part of the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor (SSTC) project for a new route from the A19 and A1 into central Sunderland.

This is to reduce traffic congestion and improve connections formajor riverside and city centre development sites that can help deliver thousands of new jobs.

The consultation was based on indicative cost estimates covering the risks associated with this large-scale capital project.

The cabinet is discussing whether to proceed to the next steps which would finalise the design and therefore givegreater certainty on the key issues of cost, deliverability and risk.

The council, working withSunderland arc and One NorthEast, has already won funding of 98 million from the Government for the new bridge and connecting roads, with a local contribution of 6 million.

It would link Wessington Way on the north side to Pallion New Road on the south, creating a new river crossing between the Queen Alexandra and Hylton bridges.