Patchwork quilt’ fears for rural roads

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Norfolk's rural road network could resemble a “patchwork quilt” if ministers approve funding cuts, it is claimed.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Norfolk's rural road network could resemble a “patchwork quilt” if ministers approve funding cuts, it is claimed.

The county faces a £2.5m-a-year cut in its highways budgets under a new formula that would see government grant for the county being reduced by 15pc.

Ministers are consulting on the issue, which would amend the rules to focus strictly on the lengths of roads - and not their condition - when handing out cash for repairs and upgrades. But that could see the yearly maintenance budget being cut from around £21m to £18m.

County councillors yesterday led calls to fight proposals which, they said, would prove a danger to motorists and threaten Norfolk's economic wellbeing.

The authority is mounting a cross-party campaign to lobby MPs and regional minister Barbara Follett to try to reverse the proposals.

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The move comes after County Hall raised fresh concerns about regional plans for more than 30,000 new homes and jobs earmarked for Norfolk in the next 20-years.

These, they insisted, would be unsustainable if the government failed to provide the cash needed to pay for better transport links, new schools, health facilities and other infrastructure.

Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for planning and transportation, said the government had got its sums wrong. He added: “A 15pc reduction would have a very serious effect, and the rural roads would suffer the most. Instead of doing full-scale resurfacing we would only be only be able to repair potholes.

“Our roads would turn out like a patchwork quilt.”

Fellow cabinet member Chris Mowle said the proposal followed other funding changes weighted against rural counties like Norfolk, which saw the county lose out by around £22m a year in other departments such as care for the elderly “Norfolk will suffer the biggest reduction than any other area,” he said. “Why is Norfolk discriminated against?”

And Christopher How, cabinet member for economic develop-ment, said good roads were vital for farming and tourism.

“The roads have to be maintained or our economic success could be threatened,” he added. “We should mount as much opposition as possible.”

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