Norfolk businesses spell out case for A47 improvements

Campaigners pressing for upgrades to the A47 believe that there is a compelling business case for the improvements.Over the course of 20 years they said the 'A47 Gateway to Growth' strategy which envisages a combination of selected dualling and junction improvements, plus a third river crossing in Great Yarmouth, would generate nearly 10,000 jobs and secure a �390m a year increase in economic output as well as attracting private investment worth more than �800m.Cutting journey times by 30 minutes would also be worth �42m a year to road users.

• The business response

Richard Marks, managing director of John Lewis, in Norwich, said: 'Norwich is growing its reputation as a retail destination and we invested �7m in John Lewis Norwich last year. We support the proposals which will help improve communication across the county'

Davina Tanner general manager, Norwich's Chapel-field Shopping Centre, said: 'Improving the A47 will grow my business and more importantly reduce accidents.'.

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Pippa Redmond, of Norwich Print Solutions, an EDP Future 50 business based on the Meridian Business Park just off the A47 in Norwich, said: 'We are a small business which is dependent on good road communications for our on-going success. We chose our current studio location within the Meridian Business Park due to its close proximity to the A47, which, in turn, gives quick and easy access to all of Norfolk and beyond. We could never consider locating our premises on a single carriageway or any highway that did not have the extensive communicability offered by the A47 southern bypass'.

Hugo Stevenson, from EDP Future 50 firm The Mill Caf� Bar and Restaurant, Yaxham, near Dereham, said: 'The days of the traditional drinking pub are long gone and licensed premises are having to get more creative to remain sustainable. We have endeavoured to do this by creating a venue that appeals to a wide audience for a wide range of activities, from a cup of coffee and a cake to a large family gathering or a corporate networking event. To make this successful we cannot simply rely on business from the immediate vicinity. Instead, we have to create a destination venue, for which accessibility is critical. When talking about The Mill people's first perception is that we are a long way from Norwich, but when we are able to explain we are only two miles from the A47 at Dereham, it makes us instantly more accessible and desirable as a venue.'

Paul Twite, general manager, Adrian Flux Insurance Services, East Winch, near King's Lynn, said: 'We're 100pc behind the aims of the A47 Alliance to improve the road and make it fit for business in the 21st century. The A47 is the major route serving the west of Norfolk, leading east to Norwich and west to the Midlands and the North, and the benefits of improvements to the local and wider economies are significant.'

Ian Alston, managing director of Honingham Thorpe Farms, and driving force behind the Norfolk Food Hub which employs more than 200 people on site: 'We must seize every opportunity to bring the A47 up to date if Norfolk is to avoid losing real business and employment opportunities. The Norfolk Food Hub is a vision that seeks to 'Cluster Rural Businesses'. We have been assembling interest from the food and drink sector to process, package and promote regional food from our central Norfolk site here at Easton. Having secured political support as well as considerable encouragement from across the County we have serious interest from major employers. What is now desperately needed is the infrastructure to allow us to progress this job creating proposal, which we envisage will create in the region of 2,000 new jobs over time.'

Matthew Jones, chief operating officer of Norwich Research Park, said: 'The Norwich Research Park fully supports the plans for improving the A47 which are essential to achieving the huge potential of the park to drive economic growth and development in the greater Norwich area'.

Chris Limbach, network officer, First Bus, said: 'First operates 68 services throughout Norfolk and Suffolk. We carry around 25 million passengers each year on a network of routes covering Norfolk and Suffolk. Limited stop inter-urban services link many of the major centres in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, including Norwich, Peter-borough, the market towns of Kings Lynn and Wisbech, and the east-coast resorts of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. First's X1 long-distance service has helped travel and business across the region. Help is needed to ensure we can continue to do this reliably.'

Phil Gadd, property and contracts direc-tor at Norwich Airport, said: 'The world can fly to Norwich. How-ever, it cannot so easily access the region. We need to improve the A47 now.'

Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: 'There is no doubt that improving Norfolk's poor infrastructure espe-cially the A47 will enable Norfolk businesses to develop more quickly and create the jobs that are so needed. Norfolk's business community are united in the desire to grow and we look for improvement to the A47 to help us make this a reality and connect us more effectively to the west of the country.'

Martin Lake, chairman of the Mid Norfolk branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: 'I regularly use the A47, if I could save just 15 minutes every day and everyone else using the A47 could do the same that equates to thousands of hours every day.'

Andy Wood, chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: 'The A47 is a crucial road artery linking Norfolk with the Midlands and the North. Our Gateway to Growth prospectus shows the clear economic benefits of upgrading the road and we are keen to explore ways of turning the plans into reality.'

• The MPs view

The A47 Alliance has attracted support from both businesses and MPs as it seeks to drive improvements to the region's east/west road links.

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, who will be leading the delegation to see the minister on December 18, said: 'Improving the A47 can join our east coast up, not just across Norfolk, but to the Midlands and North of England. It can play a major role in improving safety on the road and giving business an even greater ability to grow and flourish in our county, with improved infrastructure and connectivity to markets.'

Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for planning and transportation and chairman of the A47 Alliance, said: 'We are right behind the government in wanting to see rapid progress on infrastructure improvements that will boost economic recovery, and the report we commissioned shows that the A47 is a prime candidate. In the long run, we still want to see the road dualled throughout, but the case for early, targeted improvements is very strong. The 'Gateway to Growth' prospectus provides a realistic way forward, recognising the importance of securing developer contributions wherever possible, but also showing what benefits would flow from the investment of public money.'

Vivienne Spikings, vice-chairman of the A47 Alliance and West Norfolk council cabinet member for development, said: 'We wholeheartedly support this cam-paign for targeted improvements to the A47. The A47 is a key route for businesses, visitors to and residents of King's Lynn and west Norfolk. The robust, economic business case we have put together demonstrates how improvements at specific junctions or along certain stretches of the A47 could not only result in faster journey times for road users, but could also unlock private investment in Norfolk, increase the county's economic output and create jobs. In King's Lynn, these improvements are crucial for the future growth and prosperity of the borough.'

Keith Simpson, Broadland MP, said: 'The A47 is the transport spinal cord of our county. We need to improve the A47 to get Norfolk moving. Targeted improvements will help reduce accidents and save lives. They will help businesses who need efficient and speedy road connections linking King's Lynn with Yarmouth.'

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, said: 'For too long Norfolk's infra-structure has been neglected. The A47 has been a key artery but it's clogged, very dangerous and too many of my constituents suffer injury and death from avoidable accidents. I greatly welcome the campaign to improve the A47 and the profound benefit it will have for my constituents.'

Rex Parkinson-Hare, Norfolk county councillor for Yarmouth Nelson and Southtown division, said: 'It would help to provide employment and hope to Great Yarmouth residents.'