A CONTROVERSIAL roadworks scheme which has rumbled on for two years is set to be completed – with the man behind the project branding the works “essential and necessary”.

Kevin Bentley, Essex county councillor responsible for infrastructure, called the long-running scheme to widen Ipswich Road and Harwich Road “one of the most ambitious engineering projects Colchester has seen.”

Critics had focused on the duration of the works, which have seen double roundabouts connecting the town centre, the University of Essex and the A12 converted into two single roundabouts.

Mr Bentley said aside from a month-long delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the works had remained “more or less” on track.

READ MORE: Businesses voice relief as roadworks look set to finally end

“When I got into the Highways job two and a bit years ago, I very quickly understood how complicated this would be,” he said.

“What this is all about is making sure Colchester has the capacity for traffic in the future – yes, we are trying to get people to reduce their use of cars, but at the same time we understand people have to use them.

“There have been quite a lot of circumstances where the infrastructure isn’t put in place before housing is built.

“Where we have got new housing developments and more to come – widening the whole stretch of road so it has more capacity is crucial.

“This is the old A12 and a trunk road.

“What had to happen before we widened the road was two big things – Anglian Water had to divert a major water pipe and BT had to move huge telecommunication cables.

“If they had damaged the water main, it would have flooded that part of Colchester very quickly.”

Mr Bentley said this underground work encompassed the first year of the project and was the reason people complained of seeing a lack of workers on the site.

Now final road surfacing is complete and barriers and bollards are being removed.

While working under the nearby railway bridge, engineers discovered some cracking, with repairs currently underway.

Future use of a one-way lane closure on Ipswich Road south has not been ruled out by the council, in case of any other “unforeseen issues”.

Mr Bentley said the works had always been planned to last between 18 months and two years but voiced sympathy over any disruption caused to businesses.

“We have been in contact with businesses throughout, including through a weekly newsletter to tell them what is going on,” he said.

“I feel desperately sorry for any businesses affected but we simply had to do this.

“With all the building work being planned for housing, people simply wouldn’t even get off their driveways if we didn’t do this work.

“If we didn’t do this, Colchester just wouldn’t be moving.

“The work was simply essential.”