Archaeologists are carrying out surveys of the route where the £46.2m Long Stratton bypass is due to run, even though the project is yet to get the go-ahead.

The planning application for the two-and-a-half-mile road, linked to 1,800 new homes, has been held up partly due to concerns over potential river pollution, which stopped councils from approving housing plans.

But, in anticipation of a decision at some point in 2023, archaeologists have been surveying fields the road would run through to check if anything of importance lies beneath the soil.

The work comes as bosses at Norfolk County Council invite contractors to bid for a tender to build the road.

The bypass, to the east of the town, would remove traffic from the A140 through Long Stratton.

Eastern Daily Press: An artist's impression of the Hall Lane bridge

The scheme includes:

  • A single carriageway road stretching southwards from Church Lane to south of Oakside farm.
  • Three new roundabouts and two new junction arrangements.
  • Two new overbridges, one vehicular and one pedestrian.
  • A new 450m single carriageway link into the town from the bypass.

The Department for Transport last year pledged £26.2m towards the £37.4m cost of the bypass.

Eastern Daily Press: Plans for the Long Stratton bypassPlans for the Long Stratton bypass (Image: Norfolk Homes)

But, in the summer, council bosses confirmed delays in securing permission, coupled with inflation and rising construction costs had pushed the bill for the road up from £37.4m to £46.2m.

That means Norfolk County Council faces having to find other sources of funding to close the gap.

Eastern Daily Press: Survey work on the A140 Long Stratton bypass routeSurvey work on the A140 Long Stratton bypass route (Image: Sonya Duncan)

In September, the bypass, along with the Norwich Western Link, was named among road schemes the government wants to "accelerate" - with an ambition for work to start next year.

However, that announcement formed part of short-serving chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng's government Growth Plan 2022 under previous prime minister Liz Truss.

Eastern Daily Press: Prime minister Rishi SunakPrime minister Rishi Sunak (Image: LEON NEAL)

It is not yet clear whether Rishi Sunak's government will have the same aspiration for the road.

The bypass project has been designed in partnership with Norfolk Homes Ltd and Norfolk Land Limited, which will also see more than 1,800 homes built in the area.

There were hopes a decision on those homes - and the bypass - could be made this year.

But the issue of so-called 'nutrient neutrality' - which saw Natural England tell councils they could not approve housing plans until they could prove they would not lead to more nutrients flowing into waterways in the catchment of the River Wensum and Norfolk Broads - has held up a decision.