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Council backs iconic Wear bridge despite the expense

A £133M RIBA competition-winning bridge design mothballed for three years finally got the goahead last week after the client for the scheme bowed to public pressure.

Sunderland City Council’s Labour group, which has majority control of the council, agreed on Friday that the design for a new Wear crossing by Spence Associates and structural engineering consultant Techniker should be the preferred option.

The iconic Spence/Techniker design won the design competition in 2005. But the design was kept under wraps until September this year when Sunderland City Council announced it was considering a £104M basic beam alternative.

The results of a public consultation run by the council last month showed that the public favoured the Spence/Techniker design. “We have listened to the people of Sunderland during our recent, extensive public consultation exercise and they have expressed their preference for the iconic bridge design,” said Sunderland City Council leader councillor Paul Watson.

“Cabinet will now be recommended to begin a full exploration of the viability and affordability of the concept design, bearing the current economic climate in mind, to ensure that choosing this option would not impact on council tax, and all possible avenues of funding are fully explored.”

Councillors are now looking at how to make up the funding shortfall of £21M. It could be plugged with money from the Department for Transport, a development agency or the council.

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