New bypass plans 'stuck in slow lane'

Fears that badly-needed local bypass schemes are stuck in the slow lane under the current system of regional funding has prompted Norfolk County Council to voice its concerns to the government.

Fears that badly-needed local bypass schemes are stuck in the slow lane under the current system of regional funding has prompted Norfolk County Council to voice its concerns to the government.

The council has repeatedly pressed for a £21m-plus scheme for Long Stratton to be given the go-ahead and has granted the bypass planning permission.

But work cannot start without regional prioritisation and, as reported in the EDP last week, it was not included in a list of transport projects set to go ahead within the next 10 years which was accepted by ministers - prompting fears that funding might not be found because the bypass is not a regional priority.

Adrian Gunson, the council's cabinet member for planning and transportation, said the funding allocation system introduced nearly two years ago needed review so that long-standing schemes such as Long Stratton on the A140 can get back on track.

“While I recognise that a scheme like Long Stratton is not one of the biggest priorities at a regional level it is vitally important to the local community,” he said.

“To my mind, there needs to be a system in place so that rural schemes of this nature up and down the country can progress to completion.

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“That is not what is happening at the moment and to that extent, the prioritisation and funding system is fundamentally flawed.

“Of course, we will continue to press the case as hard as we possibly can, but ministers need to take this issue seriously because those living in communities such as Long Stratton deserve hope that the scheme which they are crying out for can be moved forward at some stage.”

The council approved a planning application in October 2004 for the 4.8km dual carriageway bypass which would have new roundabouts to be built at either end of the bypass; one at the existing junction of the Tasburgh crossroads and the other to the south of the village. Given funding, construction of the road could take about 18 months.

The county council has set out its concerns in a letter to the Department of Transport, and Mr Gunson said he had been in touch with Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, who has also written.

Last night Mr Bacon told the EDP: “I have asked the Secretary of State to explain under what criteria schemes such as the A140 Long Stratton bypass - which do not meet the 'regional' hurdle but which are of huge local significance - would ever be considered for funding.”