Norfolk MPs continue A47 lobbying with letter to road minister Stephen Hammond
- Credit: IAN BURT
Norfolk's MPs have pledged to redouble their efforts to secure cash for the A47 after it was overlooked in the government's road spending blueprint – but welcomed news that work on an A14 toll road will start in 2016.
All nine Norfolk MPs signed a letter to road minister Stephen Hammond yesterday to tell him that investment in the trunk road – which stretches across Norfolk – is 'essential to unlocking the full economic potential of the region'.
They urged him to visit the route and called for a meeting to discuss how it could be moved forward in light of this week's spending review.
While there was disappointment that the A47 was not named in the government's spending plans, MPs and business leaders welcomed plans to start work on the £1.5bn A14 toll road scheme.
Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley said he had been supporting the A14 scheme since the start of this parliament because the Cambridge, Norwich and Ipswich 'golden triangle' was a huge engine of growth and jobs.
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'We are rather lucky to be in this position of sitting in the golden triangle because we have high growth sectors, bio-tech, human sciences, IT and logistics to do with the Port of Felixstowe,' he said. 'We are a key strategic part of the country now and we need a proper A road to match it,' he added.
In their letter to Mr Hammond, the Norfolk MPs said they recognised that the eastern region was benefiting significantly from the A11 and the £1.5bn funding for the A14, but said they still believed that a commitment to a route-based strategy for the A47 was essential to unlocking the full economic potential of the region. It said: 'Since we met in January, there have been a spate of accidents along the A47, with over eight fatalities. This, and the growing pressure of congestion, are driving an understandable local public case for investment.'
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In the Commons, Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman challenged chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander to ensure 'priority' was given to the A47 as a strategic artery linking east-west and linking the offshore energy cluster and the life science cluster with Cambridge. He called for reassurance that in the £28bn roads package, the A47 might yet receive funding. Mr Alexander said he would 'pass on the point' to the Department for Transport.
Broadland MP Keith Simpson said: 'There is no doubt in my mind that it is with the Department for Transport that we have to redouble our efforts. They have to decide what the priorities are. I think we, the Norfolk MPs, have got to go ahead and have Stephen Hammond up to look at the situation on the ground and I hope we can persuade him to push the A47 up the list of priorities.'
Treasury minister David Gauke told the EDP that yesterday's announcement was 'ruling in' rather than 'ruling out' schemes.
• THE LETTER TO STEPHEN HAMMOND:
The A47 - a strategic priority route for upgrading
We are writing to you jointly as all of the MPs representing Norfolk to highlight the strategic case for the A47 to be made a priority route for funding from the increased roads budget announced by the Chancellor and Chief Secretary today.
As you know from our meetings with you and your predecessor, the A47 is the key East-West economic artery linking the Norfolk economy to the Midlands and the rest of the country. As the primary access route linking the offshore energy and marine clusters on the coast with Norwich, the expanding Norwich Research Park and technology cluster with Kings Lynn to the rest of the UK, it is a vital strategic corridor. In recent decades it has had minor incremental works to sections of duelling and junctions, but the increasing volumes of traffic and the growing incidents of accidents and congestion at black spots make the case for upgrade increasingly urgent. We were shocked to discover that the route was not promoted by the
former RDA and that we were starting from a low base in lobbying for funds.
We have been greatly encouraged this year by the positive response we have received from you and your officials, particularly your encouragement that a compelling business plan for the route would enable it to be given a much higher priority, and your commitment to support a route-based strategy for the A47. As you know, following our meeting, we and the County Council and the A47 Alliance have put together the business case as suggested which you have been good enough to recognise as a model for other roads.
We understand that this was a particularly difficult Spending Review and that it would not be possible to fund all infrastructure projects. We recognise that the Eastern region is benefiting significantly from the All and the £1.5 billion funding for the A14 announced today. However, we still believe that a commitment to a route-based strategy for the A47 is essential to unlocking the full economic potential of the region.
Since we met in January, there have been a spate of accidents along the A47, with over 8 fatalities. This, and the growing pressure of congestion, are-d~riving a understandable local public case for investment.
You have been kind enough to indicate that you would come and visit the route for yourself and we very much look forward to fixing that as soon as possible.
We are writing formally to request that the A47 is looked at as a potential priority route for funding from the £20 billion additional roads budget announced today, and to ask if you would be willing to meet with us to discuss how we can move our route based strategy for the A47 forward, in light of the 2013 Spending Review?
With very best wishes and thanks for the interest that you are taking in this route,
George Freeman MP, Richard Bacon MP, Henry Bellingham MP, Norman Lamb MP, Brandon Lewis MP, Keith Simpson MP, Chloe Smith MP, Elizabeth Truss MP, Simon Wright MP