The controversial £4.4m revamp of one of Norwich's busiest roundabouts has descended into farce, critics have claimed.

The project at Heartsease has become embroiled in a bitter political row after council leaders admitted they cannot do some of the planned work because they do not own the land - and do not even know who does.

Eastern Daily Press: The Heartsease roundaboutThe Heartsease roundabout (Image: Mike Page)

Now they have also conceded that some proposed elements - including a segregated cycle path - might have to be ditched altogether if the council cannot secured the land.
Eastern Daily Press: Work on the Heartsease roundabout in NorwichWork on the Heartsease roundabout in Norwich (Image: Denise Bradley)

The project has already provoked anger among some locals, who say the plans are overly complicated and could create more congestion.

They have also criticised the impact of the roadworks and fear the latest wrangles could delay the scheme.

Alison Birmingham, Labour county councillor for Crome division, said: "This adds a new layer of risk and uncertainty, if there is a delay in securing the land, for local businesses already feeling the strain.

"I've heard it called a farce and a fiasco. Call it what you like but this is no way to treat people, businesses or public money."

The council started eight months of work on the revamp of Heartsease roundabout last month - only for it to emerge the authority does not own two required patches of land on either side of Harvey Lane.

A process has started which would enable County Hall to force landowners to sell the land, outside the former Lloyds Bank and the Heartsease pub.

But leaders have admitted they cannot do any work on that land until it has been bought - and they still do not know who actually owns the land.

Eastern Daily Press: The land outside the former Lloyds BankThe land outside the former Lloyds Bank (Image: Newsquest)The council insists the scheme will not be delayed, with the need to purchase the land factored into the eight-month timescale.

Eastern Daily Press: The land outside the Heartsease pubThe land outside the Heartsease pub (Image: Denise Bradley)

But the authority conceded if it cannot buy the land, proposed segregated cycle lanes would have to be scrapped.

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

Graham Plant, the council's cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said: "These are very small areas of land that do not compromise the delivery of the majority of the works.

"Work is not taking place on areas of land which are still subject to acquisition and work will only take place on such areas once the land is vested in the county council.

"This process is under way and is expected to be completed in time for when the construction phase of that part of the junction is reached later."

Eastern Daily Press: Work on Heartsease roundabout will last for eight monthsWork on Heartsease roundabout will last for eight months (Image: Denise Bradley, Newsquest)

READ MORE: Anger at secret meetings over Norwich road shake-ups

But the council confirmed if land cannot be obtained, it might not be able to provide a segregated cycle/footpath - proposed as an addition to the original scheme.

Eastern Daily Press: Labour county councillor Alison Birmingham (left) at Heartsease roundaboutLabour county councillor Alison Birmingham (left) at Heartsease roundabout (Image: Archant 2021)

Analysis: fiasco highlights infrastructure concerns

Speculation is swirling around whether or not the government will scrap the northern leg of the HS2 train line, with prime minister Rishi Sunak widely tipped to be due to an announcement about the scheme at the Conservative party conference today.

Mr Sunak has insisted he will not be forced into “premature decisions over the controversial rail route - but soaring inflation will have pushed the costs of the project even higher than the £98bn bill estimated in 2020.

What will happen with HS2 is likely to become clearer later today, but whatever decision is made could have repercussions in Norfolk.

If the plug is pulled on that costly project, could that free money up for the Norwich Western Link road?

Norfolk County Council has long been awaiting a decision on whether the government will bankroll millions of pounds for that contentious scheme.

Or will it have the opposite effect? Will the government plead such poverty that it finally sounds the death knell for a project critics would happily see wither on the vine.

The situation demonstrates how difficult it can be to get infrastructure built in this country.

And, on a much more local level, Norfolk County Council is encountering its own problems with the revamp of Heartsease roundabout.

The eight months of disruption there has already caused consternation among people who use that junction - and among local businesses.

And it has now emerged that the council still has not managed to buy some of the land needed for the scheme.

Little wonder the words farce and fiasco have been bandied about.

It seems bizarre that work on a major project like this can start before such issues have been resolved.

To be fair to officers at County Hall, the government-imposed time limits on when the money for the project had to be spent has not helped them to make sure all their ducks were in a row before work started.

The council says the efforts to snap up the land will not delay the project further, but concede that, if they cannot get the land, then segregated cycleway/footpaths might have to be ditched.

That would be a massive blow for a project which critics such as Norwich Cycling Campaign, have said already falls well short of what they had hoped could be provided there.