Norfolk and Suffolk road improvement plans dealt a blow

Head and shoulders of MP Keith Simpson

Head and shoulders of MP Keith Simpson - Credit: Colin Finch

Norfolk and Suffolk's road improvement plans were plunged further in to the slow lane last night as the government slashed a planned cash pot by £13m.

Local leaders said they were disappointed that the area will initally get just £26m to share between the counties rather than the £39m unveiled in January.

The setback comes just weeks after hopes the A47 would be near the top of the list for an upgrade were dashed when it was not named in last month's spending review.

Broadland MP Keith Simpson said: 'On the surface it does look disappointing, but there may be an explanation behind it. It would be better to say you are looking at a hard core of £26m, but there may be a chance you can get more than that. We will be pressing transport ministers.'

The funding for major local transport projects is part of the government's localism agenda, which is intended to devolve decision-making away from Whitehall to local communities.

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Norfolk and Suffolk are earmarked to receive the £26m for the four years from April 2015, with the choice on how that money is spent to be made in the two counties.

The region has set up a Local Transport Body (LTB) to decide where devolved money should be sent.

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One of the LTB Board member and Norfolk county councillor David Harrison said he was disappointed it was receiving a third less in funding than first expected, but that it would now look to work with other partners to draw in additional funding.

He said the £26m would only really go towards part-funding projects and it would have to rely on funding elsewhere to ensure that significant projects were completed.

Mark Pendlington, New Anglia local enterprise partnership board member said: 'At the first meeting this week of our own LTB, we began work on prioritising a long-list of schemes for investment. Our unrelenting focus will be to help deliver jobs and growth, and the good news is that the government is giving us the opportunity to bid for an greater allocation of funding than the £26m announced today. Given the number of schemes worthy of investment across Norfolk and Suffolk, we will obviously want to take full advantage of that.'

A Department for Transport spokesman said the £39m announced in January was 'indicative' because they had not know what their spending review settlement would be.

He said that the LEP areas that made a 'good case' for further investment would have the opportunity to receive significant additional funding from the competitive elements of the Local Growth Fund.

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