, Political editor
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Norfolk County Council has hailed what it said could be a “huge step forward” in the fight to get a major upgrade for the A47.
The Eastern Daily Press reported yesterday that transport minister Stephen Hammond had said the government would in 2013 seriously consider the case to fund improvements on the road.
He had just met campaigners who were trying to persuade him that over 20 years, undertaking a ‘shopping list’ of 14 improvements would generate 10,000 jobs, secure a £390m annual economic boost and attract up to £800m of private investment.
But to their surprise Mr Hammond raised the prospect that he would, in 2013, name the project as one that might be funded under a government road improvement scheme sometime soon after 2015.
Graham Plant, county council cabinet member for transport, said: “We have been greatly heartened by our meeting with Stephen Hammond.
“He clearly recognises the A47 as a route of strategic importance.”
The government is funding three “route-based strategies” in the current financial year to upgrade roads across the country: the A1 in Newcastle, the M62 from Leeds to Manchester and the A12 near Harwich.
The three strategies will then inform funding decisions to be made in the next government spending review period from 2015. Mr Hammond told the EDP he was convinced the A47 could be the 4th or 5th route-based strategy the government funded.
Mr Plant said: “The minister says there is a strong case for the A47 to be the focus of one of the national Route Based Strategies next year.
“This would be a huge step forward and would have the full support of all those who want to see improvements on the A47. We will do everything we can to secure the A47’s place in the Route Based Strategy process.”
It was last month that MPs, Norfolk County Council, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and other campaigners formed the A47 Alliance and launched a united drive, with the backing of the EDP, to convince the government of the overwhelming business case for the upgrade.
The 14 improvements outlined included dualling the Acle Straight, creating a third river crossing at Great Yarmouth, and building an East Winch/Middleton bypass in West Norfolk.
Andy Wood, chairman of New Anglia Enterprise Partnership, said: “The level of impact investment should not be underestimated.
“It will be a catalyst for business growth and jobs in key sectors including energy, life sciences, engineering and tourism and will boost the economy across the region.
“The aim is to drive this forward in the new year to ensure we secure the investment needed to make it happen.”
Meanwhile Norwich South MP Simon Wright added: “Improving the A47 would deliver economic growth and jobs to Norwich.
“It’s an important route, but one which is poor quality in parts. I was pleased to hear the minister recognise that in his comments. There is strong cross-party political support for the A47 Alliance proposals.”
Mr Hammond said that he had been particularly impressed with the way campaigners had worked together to create a business case.
Among others present at the meeting were Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, Broadland MP Keith Simpson and Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman.