Opening the gateway to North Norfolk: Work begins on new roundabout on A148 at Felbrigg
- Credit: Archant
A new roundabout being built at a notorious bottleneck on one of the region's busiest roads will drive tourism in north Norfolk.
Road safety campaigner John Blair made the statement as work began on the £619,000 construction project on the A148 road, which links holiday hotspots Cromer and Sheringham, at the turn off for Felbrigg.
The roundabout is expected to take 11 weeks to build and be open by the end of May - in time for visitors ahead of the summer season.
Speaking at a sod-cutting ceremony on Monday, councillor John Blair, chairman of Felbrigg Parish Council, said: 'This is a roundabout which is being created to a large extent by a few people and will benefit the whole of north Norfolk - it has opened the gateway to the whole area and this is going to be a good move for tourism and traffic in general. We'd like to thank everybody involved.'
The construction project, which is being led by Norfolk County Council, follows a long running road safety campaign amid concerns of an increase in traffic from the opening of the area's first crematorium nearby.
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Councillor Sue Arnold, who represents the area on North Norfolk District Council and is also chairman of the Steps to Safety Campaign, said: 'I think the opening of the crematorium is going to make a lot of difference to this junction and this will definitely help that, otherwise there could have been huge hold-ups.
'I think every community wants to see road improvements, we say there is too much traffic on the roads but we all use them. I know there is movement to try to get the speed limits reduced or coordinated along this stretch of road and they want a roundabout at Sheringham. There is also always an issue with the Thorpe Market crossroads - people say they never know who has right of way.'
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But she added: 'These guys (highways department) have got a hard job trying to please everybody but this is absolutely fantastic news.'
The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, North Norfolk District Council, Cromer Town Council, the parish councils of Roughton, Runton and Felbrigg, as well as developers and local businesses all contributed to the building project following a decade of campaigning.
And now it is hoped the funding partnership can be replicated elsewhere in the county to pay for similar schemes.
Councillor Hilary Cox, who represents Cromer on both the county and district councils, said: 'It's not the answer to everybody's dreams but it's a very huge step in making this bit of road safer, the junction safer, and benefitting the whole area in having a better traffic flow and a lot less aggravation for people waiting at the junction. It's wonderful.
'It is the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people from all different areas and departments and levels of governments to actually achieve this. It's something that has been fought for for quite some time.'
And she added: 'We have to look to the future and the way Cromer has grown over the last few years that we've been hoping for something like this to happen - the industrial area down the Holt Road has trebled, we've had new housing with more going up, we have a new crematorium, Felbrigg Hall is continuing to prove popular with lots of new events, and now we've got the possibility of the concerts at Cromer Hall which will bring more people and traffic - and we need to make it easier for everybody.'
The Westerleigh Group, the company behind the new crematorium in Cromer; Starlings Transport, the North Walsham-based haulage firm; Maretts Chariots, a coach firm based in Norwich; the National Trust, which runs nearby Felbrigg Hall; and Cromer and District Independent Funeral Services were among those to contribute to the total cost of the scheme.
Chris Dashper, head of programmes for New Anglia LEP, said: 'We don't see very many initiatives with this number of partners involved but perhaps it's a model for the future for how projects are put together.'
Motorists are being warned of disruption ahead during the construction of the roundabout. Traffic will be controlled by temporary traffic lights and a temporary closure of the route will be required when the new roundabout is being surfaced.
But road engineering firm Danaher and Walsh are confident it will be completed in time for the busy summer season, with new tree planting planned later in the year.
Operations director Russell Fitzjohn said: 'It will be open (on time), it has to be open, I'm very confident about that.
'There are a programme of roundabouts being built in Norfolk and this is our first contract with Norfolk County Council through our highways framework so we're quite excited to be involved.'
And he added: 'I'm impressed by how all the communities have come together for this one and the way they have got all the funding sorted - that's quite unique.'