Congestion charge idea for Norwich

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Transport chiefs are seeking £200,000 of government cash to explore the idea of a congestion charge in Norwich.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Transport chiefs are seeking £200,000 of government cash to explore the idea of a congestion charge in Norwich.

Norfolk County Council is bidding for the money from the transport innovation fund to pay for half of the costs of a feasibility study and public consultation on its findings.

But critics fear that the cash will be used to fund work on the controversial Norwich northern bypass (NDR).

Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for transport and planning downplayed any suggestions that motorists would have to pay to drive on the city's road network.

"It doesn't commit us at this stage to any scheme," he said. "It will allow us to determine whether or not congestion charging would have a role in the Norwich area.

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"It's inevitable that we have got to look at some sort of congestion charging in relation to the NDR. We made that quite clear at the outset."

Richard Bearman, from the no NDR campaign group, said the fund was earmarked for non-road building schemes and was critical of the bid.

"They are being a little bit devious about applying for money from this pot," he said. "We suspect that they are planning to use this money to build the NDR using money that isn't meant for road-building."

The Tory cabinet also attacked an inspector's report looking at the future development of the region because of its failure to support the case for new road building to cope with thousands of extra homes.

Adrian Gunson called for a maximum limit on the number of new houses insisting that the inspector's proposals for 505,500 new homes, including 78,700 in Norfolk, would be "detri-mental" to the county without any funding guarantees to pay for the infrastructure to support them.

Meanwhile, the cabinet also agreed not to support the proposed Bure link road in Yarmouth in favour of throwing its weight behind a third river crossing for the town.

The road, which would form a link between the A47 and the A149, is part of proposals for the town put forward by the newly formed urban regeneration company.

But Mike Jackson, the council's director of planning and transportation, said: "The appraisal work that's been done to date suggests that the economic case is relatively poor. We would like to see the focus on delivering the third river crossing."