A planning application to build England’s tallest bridge in Sunderland could be submitted before the end of the year.
It follows a decision by Sunderland City Council’s cabinet to move to the next stages of the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor (SSTC) project with its centre-piece landmark new Wear bridge.
Speaking after Wednesday’s decision, Leader of Sunderland City Council Cllr Paul Watson said the landmark bridge would be a ‘people’s bridge’ as there was support for it across the city.
Crossing the river from Castletown on the north side to Pallion on the south, the cable-stay bridge would have two soaring and curving masts with the taller western mast rising to 180metres.
This is higher than the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge in Dartford, the Humber Bridge and both Severn crossing bridges. The height of the bridge will be emphasised by its reflection in the river.
Last year there was a major public consultation exercise across Sunderland that showed people were in favour of having a landmark bridge.
Cllr Watson said: “Today’s decision is a very important one for everybody in Sunderland and the North East. People told the council they wanted a landmark bridge for the city and we have listened.
“This landmark and functional bridge will create a new benchmark in quality and aspiration for Sunderland and the North East.
“The people’s bridge will be a distinctive new symbol for the city, help raise Sunderland’s profile and the potential for greater prosperity and further regeneration along the river corridor, and in the city centre. It will be a functional landmark for regeneration.”
A planning application for the bridge is now being developed and could be submitted by November. Subject to further permissions on planning and funding, work could begin in 2012 with completion in 2014.
Its unique design was first proposed by local architect Stephen Spence and structural engineers Techniker.
Spence said: “This is a positive and bold decision for Sunderland and it shows confidence and ambition for the city and the region.
“What is particularly pleasing, given that I was raised in the area, is seeing this support from the community and the City Council as we move towards a landmark within Sunderland for generations to come.”
Further detailed construction and maintenance plans were drawn up by Techniker after their appointment in January 2009 to develop the initial design.
Director of Techniker Matthew Wells said: “As the City Council’s consultant structural engineers, we have worked through all the manufacturing, construction and maintenance options, such as talking to companies in what could be the supply chain. We have concluded that there are sufficient workable options to build this landmark bridge and maintain it.”
Funds of £133 million can be made available for the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor project and the Department for Transport (DfT), which last year accepted the business case for the work, has indicated that it could contribute £97.9 million. Subject to further funding decisions, the City Council would put £23 million towards the project for the bridge and its access roads.
In the report to cabinet, it was outlined how the DfT had said it was ‘pleased with progress made by Sunderland City Council to date on the various conditions which were set’ in August 2008.
The project has support from the council’s partner organisations including regional development agency One North East and city development agency Sunderland arc.