By Kate Scotter and Chris Hill
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Backing for a big-name restaurant and hotel development in Dereham has proved the strategic importance of the A47 to the town – and should now be used to put more pressure on ministers to upgrade the road.
That was the view of the town’s senior politicians after Breckland’s planning committee approved plans for a McDonald’s drive-through, a Marston’s pub and a 51-bed hotel at the redundant former Cemex site off Yaxham Road.
The development will be built just off the A47 which, despite optimism from Norfolk’s MPs, failed to secure funding in the government’s infrastructure plans after last week’s spending review.
Although councillors welcomed the job creation potential of the McDonald’s development – and its ability to boost the economic credentials of Dereham – there was disappointment that the major east-west artery which will serve it was overlooked in the latest round of national funding.
At Monday’s planning committee meeting, William Richmond, Breckland councillor for Dereham Neatherd, said he hoped the new development would help strengthen the case for the A47 to be dualled.
“The proposal signals that Dereham is pulling enterprise and should send a clear message to central government that if Dereham and Norfolk can continue to draw large businesses such as McDonald’s and Marston’s to the county then infrastructure improvements must follow, including the further dualling of the A47,” he said.
“We need the government to take note and to unclog the artery. The business case for the A47 put forward by Norfolk County Council makes it quite clear that if the government invests in that then we will get growth in the county.
Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman added: “Of course it is disappointing when you miss out on funding, but given the recent successes that we have had in Norfolk with the A11 and the Norwich Research Park, fast rural broadband and rail investment, I was not expecting that we would hear that the A47 was going to be fully upgraded and dualled in this spending review.
“The department (of transport) has made clear that the business case, prepared by the A47 alliance of Norfolk’s county council and MPs, has been extremely well received and catapulted up the waiting list as a strategic route. We will now be meeting the minister urgently to explore how quickly we can expect work on the most urgent sections to begin.
“As this week’s excellent news of investment in the Cemex site illustrates, Dereham is a town with a bright future and, with improved communications in road, rail, mobile and broadband, it can once again be a thriving market town for a more prosperous mid Norfolk. I will highlight to the department that this investment is another indication of the economic potential which investment in the A47 can unlock across Norfolk.”
The McDonald’s and Marston’s development will see the creation of some 150 jobs, with the pub expected to employ 25 full-time and 35 part-time workers, the take-away 45 full-timers and 20 part-timers and the hotel 23 full-time and four part-time staff.
It is currently not known which company will take on the hotel but developers at Monday’s planning committee meeting said the firm which had originally earmarked the site had withdrawn.
The development is also set to pump £15,000 into improvements of the Yaxham Road railway crossing after an agreement with Mid Norfolk Railway.
Meanwhile, following last week’s spending review announcement, all nine Norfolk MPs signed a letter to roads minister Stephen Hammond to tell him that investment in the trunk road – which stretches across Norfolk – was “essential to unlocking the full economic potential of the region”.
They urged him to visit the route and called for a meeting to discuss how it could be moved forward.