Delay risk revealed for Norwich’s Northern Distributor Road

An alliance between Labour, UKIP and the Liberal Demcrats has broken the deadlock at Norfolk County Council.

An alliance between Labour, UKIP and the Liberal Demcrats has broken the deadlock at Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Archant

A multi-million pound road on the edge of Norwich could be delayed by a further year, it has emerged.

Norfolk County Council has been hoping to get its proposed Northern Distributor Road declared by the government as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.

Council bosses said that would speed up work starting on the £141.5m road, which would stretch from the A47 at Postwick to the A1067 Fakenham Road, because it would go straight to a planning inspector for a decision, rather than going through the normal planning process.

The council says that would mean it could start work on the road in 2015, with it opening in 2017/18.

But, at a public inquiry into a blueprint for housing yesterday, council officers conceded the door to getting the road fast-tracked could be slammed shut.

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Draft orders have been produced by the government which could prevent the 19.5km road being eligible to become a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.

That leaves the council faces a race to get their application in and agreed before those orders become law, otherwise the council could end up having to rely on the Secretary of State using their discretion to fast-track it.

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And officers said the worst case scenario, for them, would be if the road had to go through the normal planning process.

Phil Morris, principal planner at Norfolk County Council, said: 'We would anticipate a delay of probably 12 months if it was progressed as a normal planning application.'

The potential blow for the NDR became clear at a public inquiry into a document called the Joint Core Strategy.

The Greater Norwich Development Partnership - made up of councils in Norwich, Broadland and South Norfolk, along with Norfolk County Council - had drawn up the blueprint for where 37,000 homes could be built by 2026.

But, following a successful legal challenge by Salhouse campaigner Stephen Heard, a High Court judge told the GNDP it needed to look again at where the homes should be allocated.

While allocations south of the city are dispersed around existing towns and villages, to the north they are concentrated on the so-called 'Growth Triangle', where up to 9,000 new houses could be built around Salhouse and Rackheath.

At the hearing, inspector David Vickery quizzed council officers, campaigners and developers over the reasons why the homes are earmarked for those areas.

The hearing also heard how council officers concede the sustainability appraisal for where those homes should be is based on the assumption that the Northern Distributor Road does get built.

And they said the council would underwrite the cost of the road, which has secured £86.5m of government funding, even though there is likely to be a shortfall, even with £40m agreed in principle by the GNDP.

Officers said the reduction in potential funding from the Community a infrastructure Levy would not stop the road from going ahead, as the council was committed to underwriting the coat.

When asked by Mr Vickery whether that meant 'come hell or highwater' the council would underwrite the road, Mr Morris said: 'This is a scheme which has been in the planning for sometime. The costs are well known, so it's not a case of funding whatever. It's a case of funding up to the costings which have been worked through.'

And developers Barton Willmore are argued the sustainability appraisal is not sound and that homes ought to be built in Wymondham instead.

Cvouncil officers say the secondary school there could not cope with so many more pupils and to build a new school would require an unjustifiable number of houses.

The inquiry continues today.

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