Deal on the table to plug £30m Norwich Northern Distributor Road funding gap

Cllr George Nobbs, leader of the Council, Cllr Toby Coke, chairman of the Environment, Development a

Cllr George Nobbs, leader of the Council, Cllr Toby Coke, chairman of the Environment, Development and Transport Committee and Tom McCabe, executive director of Community and Environmental Services brief the media on the latest news for the Norwich NDR at County Hall. Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

A £30m funding gap for the controversial Norwich Northern Distributor Road could be plugged, after the government and business leaders indicated they could be prepared to come to the rescue.

It emerged last week that the cost of the 12.5 mile road, stretching from the A47 at Postwick to the A1067 Fakenham Road, had soared from £148.5m to £178.5m.

Norfolk County Council, which wants to build the road, blamed construction cost inflation and design changes for the hike and approached the government asking for help.

The council had hoped the Department for Transport would contribute £15m to plug the gap, while councillors were next month due to be asked, at an extraordinary meeting, to agree to match that with £15m from the authority's transport budget.

However, a deal has been tentatively forged which would close the funding gap. The government has told the county council it is prepared to contribute £10m, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) will consider putting up £10m, which would leave the council to find the final £10m.

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The government has already pledged a £67.5m contribution, for the section from Postwick on the A47 to the A140 at Norwich International Airport. It has also given £19m for the Postwick Hub element of the project - with work well underway.

The council hopes a further £40m towards the road will be generated from the Community Infrastructure Levy - a tax on the development in the Greater Norwich area.

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The full council will still need to meet on Wednesday, September 2 to agree to provide its £10m, while the board of the New Anglia LEP would need to ratify its proposed £10m share at a meeting next month.

George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: 'During the last few years, I have had many reasons to complain about the government, but I have no complaints today.

'If this deal does go ahead, then this will be a generous and far-sighted gesture by the Department for Transport and the Local Enterprise Partnership, of which I am a board member.

'The possible three way split between the council, the government and the LEP would be a model of co-operation for the benefit of all the people of Norfolk.'

Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP said: 'This road will deliver more than £1bn in economic benefit for Norwich and the wider economy. It is critical in delivering thousands of jobs, new homes and driving the economic growth we need across our region. We have been talking to the Government and Norfolk County Council to see how we can support the additional funding needed to make sure it happens. As a result I will be asking our full board to commit £10m from the LEP's future Growth Deal funding, when we next meet in early September.'

Business bosses and council leaders say the road will lead to improved journey times, bringing a £1.3bn economic boost.

However, the process has proved controversial. The Green Party, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Norwich and Norfolk Transport Action Group are among those who have warned it will cause more pollution and see swathes of countryside concreted over.

People in places such as Great Plumstead, Thorpe End, Hockering, Weston Longville, Drayton and Costessey raised concerns the road will ruin their communities.

The council has said initial work on the road, which was given government permission in June, will start in October, with full blown construction work set to start in February or March next year, to be completed in 2017.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: 'DFT has considered Norfolk's request for additional funding to help cover the cost increase and subject to assessing a final business case an additonal £10m has been offered on an exceptional basis given the importance of the scheme to growth in the Norwich area.'

• What do you think of the NDR? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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