A47 dualling deadline date is revealed

What changes to the A47 would look like at Blofield looking towards Acle. Picture: Highways England

What changes to the A47 would look like at Blofield looking towards Acle. Picture: Highways England - Credit: Highways England

A key deadline has been set over whether millions of pounds will be spent to dual a section of the A47 in Norfolk.

National Highways is seeking development consent orders for three sections of the A47, as part of a £300m project.

That includes proposals to dual sections between North Tuddenham and Easton and from Blofield to North Burlingham.

The A47 between Blofield and North Burlingham. Pic: Highways England.

The A47 between Blofield and North Burlingham. Pic: Highways England. - Credit: Highways England

It also includes proposed changes to Thickthorn roundabout, on the edge of Norwich.

A series of public hearings into the three schemes have been held - and more will continue next month.

But the hearings for the scheme between Blofield and North Burlingham have been completed and planning inspector Alex Hutson has confirmed the examination is now over.

He has said he will send his findings and conclusions, together with his recommendation to transport secretary Grant Shapps, no later than Tuesday, March 22 next year.

File photo dated 07/10/12 of Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps, who has insisted Starbucks ha

Transport secretary Grant Shapps. - Credit: David Jones/PA Wire

The Blofield to North Burlingham scheme would see the existing single-lane section replaced with a new 1.6-mile dual carriageway, 70m south of the existing road.

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Improvements would be made to the Yarmouth Road junction, closing the right turn and adding a dedicated lane to join the A47, while a new bridge would be added over the new dual carriageway at Blofield.

The final decision on whether the dualling can go ahead rests with Mr Shapps.

He can choose to accept the inspector's recommendation, or could ignore it.

The latter happened with the planning inquiry into the revamp of Norwich's Anglia Square.

A planning inspector recommended approval, but local government inspector Robert Jenrick disagreed and blocked the scheme.

Meanwhile, public hearings into plans to dual just over five-and-a-half miles of the A47 between North Tuddenham and Easton and to make changes at the Thickthorn roundabout on the edge of Norwich, will continue next month.

Hearings about the North Tuddenham to Easton scheme will take place on Wednesday, January 5 and Thursday, January 6.

Hearings about the Thickthorn scheme - which would include a new slip road off the A11 - will start on Monday, January 31 and continue each day to Thursday, February 3.

Analysis

It was back in 2014 that then prime minister David Cameron announced £300m would be spent to dual sections of the A47 in Norfolk.

That included dualling stretches between Blofield and North Burlingham and between North Tuddenham and Easton.

It also included a revamp at the Thickthorn roundabout on the edge of Norwich and at roundabouts in Great Yarmouth.

But council leaders in Norfolk have been frustrated at the amount of time it has taken National Highways (previously Highways England) to move the projects forward.

For instance, work to start dualling the Blofield to North Burlingham section had been due to start between 2020/21.

But, with public hearings only happening this year and the secretary of state likely to need time to mull over whatever the planning inspector submits by March, if permission is granted, work is unlikely to start until next summer at the earliest.

Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor previously branded the highways agency as "inept" while his deputy Graham Plant said five years had been "completely wasted".

Graham Plant, Councillor, at the grand reopening of the Venetian Waterways and Boating Lake, Great Y

Norfolk County Council deputy leader Graham Plant. - Credit: Archant

However, critics of the road schemes, who say the environmental cost is too great, will be hoping Mr Shapps does not give the go-ahead.