A47 roadblocks could halt rush hour “rat runs”

Norfolk highways bosses will consider blocking off A47 road junctions to halt rush-hour village 'rat runs' caused by drivers trying to avoid a congested roundabout.

The suggestion was made at a meeting with the Eight Parishes Group – a coalition of councils which shares concerns about traffic issues generated by the junction with the Mattishall Road at the eastern end of Honingham.

In Honingham, as many as 100 vehicles have been recorded during peak times as commuting drivers use short-cuts to jump the queues building on the congested section of the A47.

As a main trunk road, the A47 is the responsibility of the Highways Agency (HA), who have been urged by the parishes to find a solution to the problems which have arisen since the roundabout was completed in February 2009.

But at a meeting on Friday, Norfolk County Council's transport department, which is responsible for the minor roads network, agreed to look into a way it could combat the 'rat-running' in villages like Honingham.

The idea is to use an 'experimental traffic regulation order' to block the junctions onto minor roads like Berrys Lane and Church Lane, and close off alternative routes through rural communities.

Norfolk's highways network manager Tim Edmunds said the pilot scheme could be introduced within six months and be in place for 18 months – but only if the parishes could demonstrate support for the idea, and if funding could be found.

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'It has been left for the parish councils to go back to their communities and have a discussion about whether that is something they would consider supporting,' he said. 'There could be some disbenefits, as some of the roads which people live on could effectively be turned into cul-de-sacs.

'If we jump forward in time it could be the whole A47 is dualled in the future, in which case these side roads would be closed off anyway. So we have just started to explore what would happen if we did it now.'

Beverley Spratt, the county's deputy cabinet member for transport, said: 'It could be done quite reasonably – we are probably talking about thousands rather than tens of thousands of pounds.'

Julian Blackmore, chairman of Marlingford and Colton Parish Council, said he was encouraged by the initiative.

He said: 'We understand everybody is under extreme constraints and there is no magic wand we can wave to resolve this problem. But we are very heartened by the county council's positive response, and we hope that before long the HA will take the same attitude.

'No-one really knows what the knock-on might be, so we need this experiment to make sure it won't simply shift the problem elsewhere.'

The Eight Parishes Group comprises the parishes of Barnham Broom, East Tuddenham, Hockering, Honingham, Marlingford and Colton, Mattishall, Weston Longville and Yaxham.

Earlier this month, the group wrote to transport minister Philip Hammond to demand a meeting with the Highways Agency to discuss the problems, but no response has yet been received.

An HA spokesman said the agency was 'committed to finding a solution to the problems of congestion on the A47 at Mattishall Road' and expected to hold a meeting with parish councils in late November or early December, once plans were finalised.

Mr Edmunds said the short-term plan was to introduce traffic lights to give higher priority to A47 traffic using the roundabout. In the longer term, an additional lane is under discussion which could allow Norwich-bound traffic to bypass the roundabout altogether.