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John Joyce, left, Highways assistant director for Norfolk County Council, and Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation, with the plan showing the proposed route of the Northern Distributor Road. Picture: Denise Bradley
by Dan Grimmer, Public affairs correspondent
Thursday, April 19, 2012
People in and around Norwich have been urged to seize the opportunity to help shape the plans for the £141.5m northern bypass, after council bosses released further details about the road.
The project, known as the Northern Distributor Road (NDR), has been on the drawing board for a decade, but, with Norfolk County Council having secured £86.5m for the scheme, the council unveiled the most detailed map of the route to date.
It reveals how the 19.5km road, which will stretch from Postwick on the A47 to the A1067 Fakenham Road, will feature nine roundabouts and at least three bridges, including ones where the A140 and Buxton Road pass over the NDR.
The council has provided the extra detail on the eve of the beginning of public consultation which will see a raodhsow taken to more than a dozen locations in and around Norwich.
Councillors say they hope to get “constructive criticism” about the proposals, which they can use to fine tune the way the road is designed.
That, they hope, will help identify any unexpected local traffic issues which might be created by the new road and allow action to be taken to prevent problems.
The county council Conservative cabinet agreed earlier this month that the road would be dualled all the way along the route, although it also emerged yesterday that the final 1.8km from Fir Covert Road to the A1067 will have to be single carriageway for safety reasons.
Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: “This is a chance for the public to have a look at what we have planned so far, so they can give us their views.
“Nothing is set in stone yet, so what we are hoping for is that people will be constructive and we can take their views into account.”
Council bosses acknowledge that, while the road aims to prevent congestion and rat-running, local people have the best knowledge about potential knock-on effects which could be caused by the route.
Mr Plant said: “There are various villages and communities along the route which will be affected and we want to hear their views because we might be able to change things to prevent extra problems from being created.”
He said the road is key to Norfolk’s economic future, saying it has the potential to bring in £1.3bn of investment to the county.
He said: “This is a huge investment in Norfolk and a major confidence boost for the county. The government has said the scheme is viable and that has given us good impetus.
“We know there are people who simply do not want the road and we are expecting to get criticism from them, but there are plenty of people and businesses for whom the road cannot be built quickly enough.”
The county council is quick to stress that the road is part of the Norwich Area Transport Strategy, which includes plans for rapid bus transit routes and improvements for cyclists and pedestrians.
Critics have asked why those improvements are dependent upon the NDR, although officers say only by freeing up capacity on city roads will buses be sped up and made more reliable.
A long standing critic of the road is Denise Carlo, from the Norwich and Norfolk Transport Action Group. She was dubious about the consultation and said: “The county council made up its mind a long time ago and does not want to budge.
“We have always argued that you could make the improvements to buses, cycleways and for pedestrians without the need for the road and you could instead have smaller scale road links.”
The government has agreed to provide £86.5m for the bypass but not to fund it beyond the A140. The total cost of the project is estimated at £141.5m, with the council contributing £13.3m and also hoping to recoup some of the cost through new charges on house building, known as the community infrastructure levy.
Up to £40m has also been agreed in principle to be provided by the Greater Norwich Development Partnership (GNDP) – made up of Norwich, Broadland and South Norfolk councils.
A planning application will be submitted in the autumn, to be considered next spring, and will be followed by a public inquiry next summer.
Pending further approval, work could start on the road in spring 2015, with the road opening two years later, although work on the Postwick Hub, changes to the junction with the A47 at the east end of the road, could start as soon as this year, depending on another public inquiry.