‘Lost’ submissions spark new row over Norwich Northern Distributor Road
Campaigners against the Norwich Northern Distributor Road have said they could mount a High Court challenge over the consultation on the scheme - after claiming their responses to the consultation were ‘lost’ by the county council and not submitted to the planning inspectorate.
While Norfolk County Council insists it is “confident” all consultation responses were properly logged and included in the consultation report, The Green Party, campaign group Stop Norwich Urbanisation (SNUB) and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) all made submissions to the county council over the road and say they have automated responses to prove it.
But they say their submissions are not part of the county’s consultation files which have been submitted to the planning inspectorate - which will hold a public inquiry over whether to grant permission for the £148.5m road this summer.
Green county councillor Andrew Boswell, who has been told by the county council it has no record of the submission he made on behalf of the Green Party, has called on the planning inspectorate not to accept the application for planning consent, saying it shows the consultation was tainted.
In a letter sent to the inspectorate by Mr Boswell and his group leader Richard Bearman, they wrote: “Norwich Green Party respectfully asks you to consider your approach to accepting, or not, the application.
“If it is accepted following the flawed consultation, and flawed consultation results document, then Norwich Green Party reserves its right to apply to the High Court for an order that will give effect to reopening the consultation so that it may be carried out fairly to all parties.”
Mr Boswell has an automated response to his submission dated September 20 last year and an email from the county council on February 1 this year stating: “We have thoroughly investigated this matter and cannot find any record or copy of your email or attachment. Therefore we were unable to include this response in the consultation report.”
Stephen Heard, chairman of the campaign group SNUB, has also written to the planning inspectorate and Norfolk County Council’s interim managing director, saying his submission has also gone missing.
A comment submitted by CPRE Norfolk is also missing from the county’s consultation files.
Ian Shepherd of CPRE Norfolk, said: “CPRE Norfolk have felt for some time that the county council were not listening to those who had objections to the NDR - nor to the massive development planned around it.
“The responses made by those who have taken the time to ‘give their view’ should be required reading for our local politicians.”
And the Norfolk and Norwich Transport Action Group have taken issue with the county council’s claim that the majority of people support the road, which would stretch from the A47 at Postwick to the A1067 Fakenham Road.
The group says their own analysis of the 1,492 representations, overseen by Prof John Greenaway, from the University of East Anglia,
That showed 635 being clearly opposed to the proposed road scheme in principle, together with a further 250 who were opposed to or else had serious reservations about the adopted scheme.
There were 224 expressions of support.
Denise Carlo of NNTAG said: “These results show a clear majority against the submitted NDR scheme. Reading through the full set of responses, it is clear that many people are concerned about the environmental impacts, increases in traffic and various lanes closures as well as the cost.
“It is clear from the consultation that Norfolk County Council doesn’t have a mandate for the NDR. The council should halt work on the £148m scheme which it has agreed to underwrite to the tune of over £60m before wasting any more of the public’s money.”
But a spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: “We are confident that all consultation responses we have received have been properly logged and included in the consultation report
“Altogether over 1,400 responses have been received, showing that the consultation was very effective and that there is a high level of awareness of the proposals for Norwich Northern Distributor Road.
“The county council is committed to making this as inclusive and transparent a process as possible, which is why the full application documents have been available on our website at the earliest opportunity - much earlier than is usually the case.
“For those whose submissions, for whatever reason, have not been received, the independent examination of the proposals through the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project development approval process provides ample opportunity for all points of view to be presented and considered.
“The county council would be keen to have sight of any such submissions to have the opportunity to respond and address any concerns raised.”
The Planning Inspectorate yesterday announced that the application for the proposed road had been accepted by communities secretary Eric Pickles for examination.
The council will now need to invite people who are interested in the proposal to register with the planning inspectorate as an interested party by making a relevant representation.
• What do you think of the NDR and the consultation process? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.