Bypass could be scaled down

CELIA WIGG Cutting the costs of the long-awaited A140 Long Stratton Bypass might help in the battle to win funding for the scheme, county transport bosses were told yesterday.

CELIA WIGG

Cutting the costs of the long-awaited A140 Long Stratton Bypass might help in the battle to win funding for the scheme, county transport bosses were told yesterday.

The £26m scheme to remove almost 20,000 vehicles each day from the traffic-choked village is ready to go as the county council invested more than £1m developing plans for the much-needed relief road.

But the bypass plan stalled because it has not been included in the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) priority transport programme for the next 10 years.

Brian Stewart, chief executive of the assembly, was given a grilling yesterday by district and county councillors, and bypass campaigners during a debate on various options for progressing the scheme - as there are concerns that time is running out.

County highways project engineer, Neil Smith, said a licence granted by Defra for measures to protect rare great crested newts, living in the vicinity of the bypass route, expires in June 2008. Compulsory purchase orders “remain open” and hinge on the resolution of the funding situation. And although planning consent for the project, granted in June 2005, is valid for 10 years “the expectation is that a substantive start has to be made on that scheme within that period”.

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Mr Stewart, who was invited to debate the issue at South Norfolk Council's scrutiny committee meeting, said they had to “whittle down” a list of 130 transport schemes, and four of the 13 proposed in Norfolk did make the top priority rating

“The Long Stratton bypass from EERA's perspective is primarily a scheme that has major local benefits. The regional implications, such as they are, were taken into account and that's why it ended up as priority two. There were others that scored even less,” he explained.

Asked how the project could move up the list, Mr Stewart advised: “Look very carefully at the funding and the specifications of the scheme to see if there are some alternative funding sources to lighten the costs. Does it need to be four miles long and does it need to be dual carriageway?”

He suggested South Norfolk Council considers Long Stratton as a future growth area for housing in its local plan. This could generate cash for the bypass “pot” through a “tax” on developers.

Adrian Gunson, county council's transport spokesman, said altering the bypass specifications would be wrong and a waste of money.

“It would be foolish now we have the bypass (scheme) to work up a lesser scheme. You would be looking to slow traffic over a greater distance and that wouldn't reduce pollution levels,” he stressed.

The scrutiny committee agreed the best option is to campaign for cash to be specifically allocated in the Regional Funding Allocation for locally important schemes like Long Stratton.

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