A NEW landmark bridge for Sunderland moved a step closer last night after council bosses said: “It’s what the city deserves”.
Talks have been ongoing for months since £98m of Government funding was secured for a basic road crossing across the Wear, with Sunderland Council required to find the remaining £30m to fund a more impressive design.
But now the ruling Labour group has decided on North architect Stephen Spence’s bridge – and are set to launch a search for the cash required to make it happen so they don’t have to raise the council tax.
One option is to seek money from the pot Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged for major public projects to help the country spend its way out of recession.
Last night, the city’s regeneration company, Sunderland arc, said the iconic bridge could play a key role in attracting people and business to the city and said it would do everything in its power to help find the extra cash.
A report on the implications of selecting the more expensive design is now being prepared for the council’s cabinet, which is expected to go before councillors on December 3.
In a statement yesterday, Sunderland Council leader Paul Watson said the exact costings and design specifications still needed to be examined in more detail.
But Coun Watson said: “We always said we would consult with the people of Sunderland and now they have told us they want an iconic, aspirational bridge for the city, but not if it will put an extra burden on council tax payers.
“In our hearts we all want to see a new symbol for Sunderland which would raise its profile internationally and help us bring new prosperity to the area.
“It’s what the city deserves, so now the council will look at the next steps towards making that happen.
“Financially we need to know what the bridge will actually cost and where we will source the budget for it, while technically we need more work done on the design concept.”
Sunderland arc chief executive David Walker said: “Sunderland arc has always had aspirations for an iconic bridge that would put the city on the map and play a key role in its economic transformation.
“This bridge forms part of the arc’s wider regeneration plan for central Sunderland and will help connect new and existing communities as well as providing an enhanced gateway for the city. Bridges help define a city and last for generations, so it has been important for the people of Sunderland to have their say on the type of bridge to be built.
“We will continue to support the council’s ambitions and do whatever we can to secure funding for it.”