No neglect of Norfolk’s rural roads, councillors pledge

Norfolk's rural roads and side streets will not be neglected despite a possible multi-million pound reduction in the budget for road maintenance and improvement, council leaders have insisted.

Norfolk County Council fears its maintenance budget for roads, which stood at �34m in 2010/11 will be reduced for the next financial year.

With an �86m countywide backlog in road repairs, that means County Hall is having to look at prioritising which roads get the most attention and how to make best use with the lower amount of funding expected to be announced at the start of next month.

At a meeting of the council's environment, transport and development overview and scrutiny panel yesterday, members were presented with a report which stated there might be a need to accept 'that the condition of some roads will deteriorate because we cannot maintain them as frequently. Unclassified roads may be the least unacceptable'.

In the EDP on Monday, Labour opposition transport spokesman Bert Bremner said that could lead to some rural roads in the country increasingly resembling 'cart tracks'.

But at yesterday's meeting, Mr Bremner's comments were criticised as 'scaremongering' by councillors who insisted the council wanted to make sure people could keep moving around the county. Graham Plant, cabinet member for travel and transport, said: 'We are not going to turn rural roads into cart tracks. It is a priority for us to keep Norfolk moving.

'It is important that we keep them all to a standard which means they are usable and manage the highway to a certain standard.

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'I cannot believe a responsible member of this council would make the kind of accusations which have been made about the highways. 'People have to do their jobs and go about their business and the only way they can do that is by using maintained highways.

'We cannot get everywhere on the train, by bus or by walking and the highways are a priority for the council.' In response to a question from Tim East, Liberal Democrat spokesman for environment, roads, transport and waste, about whether some roads might end up being impassable, council officers said it would not get to that point. John Joyce, assistant director for highways, said: 'We would not allow roads to deteriorate to state where they were impassable.'

But he did say there would need to be changes in priorities to focus maintenance on key routes and more use made of surface dressing - a cheaper and more short term solution.

He said: 'Surface dressing is something which is a much lower cost treatment to deal with deteriorating roads. It can extend the life of roads if it used judiciously.'