Council leaders have been criticised for starting work on a controversial £4.4m Norwich road scheme before it even owns the land required.

Norfolk County Council began eight months of work on the revamp of Heartsease roundabout last month.

But it has emerged it still does not own two patches of land on either side of Harvey Lane required for the scheme.

It has begun a process that would enable it to force landowners to sell the land, outside the former Lloyds Bank and the Heartsease pub.

Eastern Daily Press: Work at Heartsease roundabout in NorwichWork at Heartsease roundabout in Norwich (Image: Denise Bradley)

Despite an appeal, it has yet to establish who owns the land, but the council is prepared to use a legal process known as a compulsory purchase order to force the owner, once they do become known, to sell up, should negotiations to secure a sale fail.


Eastern Daily Press: Land outside the former Lloyds BankLand outside the former Lloyds Bank (Image: Newsquest)


Eastern Daily Press: Land outside the Heartsease pubLand outside the Heartsease pub (Image: Denise Bradley)

The decision to trigger the compulsory purchase order process was made by Graham Plant, the Conservative-controlled council's cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure and Jane James, the authority's cabinet member for corporate services.

Eastern Daily Press: Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transportGraham Plant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport (Image: Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk)

The council has not revealed how much the process could cost, citing commercial confidentiality.

But officers have said it would be covered by the scheme's £4.4m budget, funded using a slice of the £32m Transforming Cities money awarded for road projects.

Mr Plant has come under fire recently for his decision to take meetings about Norwich road schemes, such as the Heartsease roundabout, behind closed doors, rather than hold them in public.

Eastern Daily Press: Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County CouncilSteve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council (Image: Denise Bradley)

Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group, said: "This is part of the Heartsease road scheme disguised as a property transaction.

"It’s hard to believe a major road scheme started before the sole decision maker, Conservative cabinet member Graham Plant, has ownership of the land needed.

"Now Mr Plant is taking all his decisions in secret, it’s much harder to prise out the full story, challenge disguised decisions like this and hold him accountable."

Eastern Daily Press: The Heartsease roundaboutThe Heartsease roundabout (Image: Denise Bradley)

Changes being made to Heartsease roundabout include one-lane entry and exit, along with new pedestrian and cycle crossings.

Council bosses say it will make the roundabout safer, but the eight-month length of the work has sparked criticism.