Wisbech, King’s Lynn, Norwich and Yarmouth must wait another year for EU to decide on A47 funding
Poor roads are keeping Norfolk's economy in the slow lane and stunting growth and job creation, the county's chamber of commerce warned today.
It came as it emerged the region would have to wait another year for a decision which could free up tens of millions in EU funding, for improvements to the A47 which could bring 10,000 jobs to King's Lynn, Norwich and Great Yarmouth.
Caroline Williams, chief executive off the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce said: 'The Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, together with Norfolk County Council and the MPs wrote to Brussels in support of the A47 and it is very disappointing to hear that the European Parliament will not be considering the proposal for the A47 to be a Core Route on the TEN-T network until next year.
'The Norfolk economy would benefit considerably from improvements to the A47, which in turn would help with the creation of jobs, homes, more private investment and an increased GVA.
'The Norfolk Chamber of Commerce will continue to support the campaign for the A47 and lobby for its inclusion as a Core Route on the TEN-T network to ensure that this proposal is considered by the TRAN Committee next year. We will also continue to lobby the UK Government to invest in the A47 to enable Norfolk to create additional jobs and grow our economy.'
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Euro MPs met earlier to review how roads across the continent are funded. Norfolk County Council and the county's MPs hope to change the status of the A47 to that of a so called TEN-T core route, meaning it would qualify for funding.
Norfolk's main East - West Route is currently classified as part of the so-called 'comprehensive network', meaning it doesn't qualify for funding.
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East Anglian MEPs Geoffrey Van Orden and Vicky Ford attended the transport committee hearing which discussed the roads guidelines.
After the meeting, Mr Van Orden said: 'I called for greater flexibility to enable countries such as the UK to use EU funds not just in the core networks but also on the wider comprehensive network. This could then include roads such as the A47 and indeed the requirement for a third bridge at Great Yarmouth.
'While the point was well taken we are a very long way from agreement even on the guidelines, let alone the funding. The guidelines will not be finalised until early 2013 and then the discussion will start in earnest over actual funding.'
Mrs Ford said: 'Upgrading the A47 would bring economic benefits, jobs and growth. Therefore it was disappointing to hear the EU Commission saying that the TEN-T network should not be expanded.
'However if we can get more flexibility on the sort of projects which are eligible, including being able to use more EU funds for the comprehensive network, then this may help. In the meantime it is important that we continue to lobby the UK Department of Transport for investment in this road.'
Graham Plant, Norfolk's cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: 'To have the A47 on people's minds in Brussels today and to have raised the road's profile I believe represents a step in the right direction. We won't be waiting around though and will be taking the case to Westminster next month at the summit organised by Brandon Lewis.
'Our long-term ambition remains having a high-quality A47, dual carriageway all the way from Great Yarmouth to Peterborough and the A1, with bypasses for communities such as Middleton and East Winch. We believe that investment in key improvements will be repaid many times over in jobs and economic output – quite apart from the benefits of easier travel. '