Bid to fast-track Norwich’s northern bypass is backed

Norwich's proposed northern bypass is set to be fast-tracked through the planning process, as councillors seek to get work started on it by 2015.

The �141.5m scheme, known as the Northern Distributor Road (NDR), has been on the drawing board for a decade and �86.5m towards the cost has been secured from the government.

But the 19.5km road, which would stretch from the A47 at Postwick to the A1067 Fakenham Road, has yet to get planning permission.

Council officers are worried that, if the usual planning route is followed, it could delay construction of the road, which they say has the potential to bring in �1.3bn of investment to the county.

They asked members of the county council cabinet to agree to instead agree the council should use government legislation to get the road designated as National Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).

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If the road was dealt with as such a project, it would mean the council would not have to submit an application for it to its own planning committee and would not have to deal with side road orders or compulsory purchase orders separately.

Instead, an independent inspector appointed by the planning inspectorate, would decide whether permission should be granted for all those things. The inspectorate would make their decision after looking at written submissions and a public hearing and council bosses insist those against the road would get their say.

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Councillors backed that move at a meeting yesterday and also agreed to add an extra �5m to the cost of the road to revise the route, following public consultation.

Those changes include shifting a roundabout earmarked for Fir Covert Road in Hellesdon to Fakenham Road and a proposed pedestrian, cycling and farm vehicle bridge at Low Road in Great Plumstead swapped for an all-vehicle bridge at Middle Road, with Low Road closed.

Councillor Shelagh Gurney, who represents Hellesdon, said: 'I am pleased we have listened, because one of the concerns in Hellesdon was that there would be a traffic impact on Reepham Road and Cromer Road.

'I know there has been an awful lot of work done and I Know Hellesdon residents will welcome this recommendation.'

But the changes to Low Road and Middle Road sparked questions from members of the public. Jeff Jordan, from the Norwich Cycling Campaign, said: 'This will cause difficulties for cyclists, with the increased traffic, compared to the previously planned agricultural access bridge at Low Road.'

He asked what consultation had been carried out with groups such as the Norwich Cycling Campaign.

Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation, said the council had met individual cyclists during consultation and specifically with cycling groups in June. He said: 'Having considered all views, we believe the current preferred layout is that the newly proposed brigde on Middle Road strikes the right balance of providing access for the community and a link for cyclists to use.'

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