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Update: Drivers warned that A47 near Norwich will be closed tonight and tomorrow night as 18 months of work gets underway

PUBLISHED: 07:32 13 May 2014 | UPDATED: 07:43 13 May 2014

Roads protestors disrupted the ceremony at the start of work on Postwick Hub. Photo: Bill Smith

Roads protestors disrupted the ceremony at the start of work on Postwick Hub. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

Drivers have been warned that the eastbound carriageway of the A47 near Norwich will be shut tonight and tomorrow as work begins to transform the Postwick junction.

New roads

The changes to the Postwick junction are complicated and will dramatically change the face of the road network to the east of Norwich.

A number of slip roads will be closed on and off the A47, to be replaced by new slip roads, three new roundabouts, a traffic-light controlled junction, three new drainage lagoons and 1.5km of new dual carriageway.

There will also be a new link to the Postwick park-and-ride site, including yet another roundabout at the junction of the A1042 and Oaks Lane.

The changes are needed, the county council says, because the current junction is at capacity and would not be able to cope with any further developments.

At the inquiry into the scheme last summer, critics of the proposals said the changes would inconvenience drivers and add extra time to their journeys.

Stephen Heard, spokesman for Stop Norwich Urbanisation, told the inquiry the design of the scheme was “inextricably” linked to the Norwich northern distributor road and the joint core strategy.

Work to create what is known as the Postwick Hub - the junction to the east of Norwich where the A47 meets Yarmouth Road - started yesterday and will continue today.

While Norfolk County Council says the junction changes - which will see new roundabouts, roads and a bridge - are essential to cope with extra traffic in the future, there will be plenty of pain for drivers while the construction is carried out over the next 18 months.

Throughout the work, the eastbound carriageway of the A47 will be shut at Postwick, with a 50mph speed limit.

Protective barriers will be installed tonight. That will mean the A47 will be closed eastbound between the A146 Trowse junction and Postwick between 8pm and 6am tonight and tomorrow night. Thursday and Friday will be used if the work is not completed.

A gateway to the Norwich northern distributor road

The Postwick Hub is seen as the gateway to the Norwich northern distributor road.

Norfolk County Council has always stressed the scheme is needed on its own merits.

But for objectors, it is an over-engineered project designed chiefly to act as the stepping-off point to a scheme detractors have dubbed the road to nowhere.

Norfolk County Council wants to build the £148.5m, 19.5km dual-carriageway road from the A47 at Postwick, to the east of the city, to the A1067 Fakenham Road, to the north west.

The government has agreed to contribute £86.5m and fast-tracked it through the planning system.

That means the Planning Inspectorate will weigh up evidence before making a recommendation on whether to grant a development consent order.

That will involve a six-month examination period, with a preliminary meeting due to be held on June 2.

The inspector appointed is Elizabeth Hill, who also conducted the public inquiry into the ill-fated King’s Lynn incinerator.

It is likely to run until November.

After that, Mrs Hill will have three months to make a recommendation.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin will then have a further three months to make a final decision.

The council says the road will bring a huge economic boost and improvements such as a rapid-bus transit in Norwich.

But critics say it will lead to rat-running and concrete over swathes of the countryside.

The official diversion route - which is a lengthy one - is via the A146 Trowse Bypass towards Beccles, the A143 to Bradwell, the A12 around Great Yarmouth and the A47 to Norwich.

Full closures of the A47 will be needed next year (50 weeks into the contract) while the new bridge is built.

Traffic will be diverted via the slip roads, without need for a lengthy diversion.

Work will be carried out by Birse Civils, part of Balfour Beatty.

Drivers set for delays

While the county council argues that the junction changes are essential to cope with extra traffic, there will be plenty of pain for drivers while the construction is carried out.

The work is set to last for 18 months.

Throughout the period, a lane of the eastbound carriageway of the A47 will be shut at Postwick, with a 50mph speed limit also in place.

Protective barriers will be installed next week.

The A47 will be closed eastbound between the A146 Trowse junction and Postwick between 8pm and 6am on Tuesday and Wednesday. It may also be shut on Thursday and Friday if the work is not completed on time.

The official diversion route – which is a lengthy one – is via the A146 Trowse bypass towards Beccles, the A143 to Bradwell, the A12 around Great Yarmouth and the A47 to Norwich.

Full closures of the A47 will be needed next year (50 weeks into the contract) while the new bridge is built.

Traffic will be diverted via the slip roads, without need for a lengthy diversion.

Council leaders say the junction changes will be a shot in the arm for the Norfolk economy, saying it will enable a new business park and new homes to be built.

They say a lack of current capacity at the junction has prevented housing development and business expansion plans going ahead.

But campaigners who argued against it at a public inquiry held in the summer said the project is over-engineered, a waste of money, would cause traffic problems and would lead to communities nearby being swamped with homes.

The changes to the junction will also create a potential connection to the controversial Norwich Northern Distributor Road, if it gets the go-ahead.

New homes

The area around Postwick is earmarked for 1,600 new houses in the years ahead.

That’s the figure in the joint core strategy – a blueprint for where development should happen by 2026.

Some 600 homes have already got planning permission.

Proposals for those homes at Brook Farm and Laurel Farm secured planning permission from Broadland District Council last summer.

The permission is for the development of 57 hectares of farmland on the edge of Dussindale, with 600 new homes, an extension to Broadland Business Park, a railway halt, a link road and a local centre.

However, while Norfolk County Council says the junction changes are necessary to serve the expanding area, the developers behind the scheme – the Lothbury Trust – actually did not want the Postwick Hub.

They had put forward their own alternative £2m proposals to improve the junction.

Great and Little Plumstead Parish Council and Thorpe St Andrew Parish Council have also raised concerns over the extra traffic which will be generated.

Norfolk County Council wants to build the £148.5m, 19.5km dual carriageway road from the A47 at Postwick to the east of the city to the A1067 Fakenham Road to the northwest.

The government has agreed to contribute £86.5m and fast-tracked it through the planning system.

That means the Planning Inspectorate will weigh up evidence before making a recommendation on whether to grant a development consent order.

That will involve a six-month examination period, with a preliminary meeting due to be held on June 2.

The inspector appointed is Elizabeth Hill, who also conducted the public inquiry into the ill-fated King’s Lynn incinerator.

It is likely to run until November.

After that, Mrs Hill will have three months to make a recommendation.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin will then have a further three months to make a final decision.

The council says the road will bring a huge economic boost and improvements, such as a rapid bus transit in Norwich.

But critics say it will lead to rat-running and concrete over swathes of the countryside.

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