Frustration that diggers are yet to start dualling A47 reaches boiling point

The Thickthorn roundabout on the edge of Norwich. Pic: Highways England.

The Thickthorn roundabout on the edge of Norwich. Pic: Highways England.

Highways England

Frustration that work on £300m improvements to the A47 has yet to start has reached boiling point, with the leader of Norfolk County Council branding the organisation responsible ‘inept’.

The A47 between Blofield and North Burlingham. Pic: Highways England.The A47 between Blofield and North Burlingham. Pic: Highways England.

Business bosses have blasted Highways England's failure to get digging under way on any of the projects awarded millions in 2014.

One even shut their business in the heart of Norfolk because the A47 is not up to scratch.

And communities are angry their concerns do not seem to be taken seriously.

In 2014, then prime minister David Cameron announced £300m would be spent on the road.

Former prime minister David Cameron. Picture: ANTONY KELLYFormer prime minister David Cameron. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

That was to dual one and a half miles between Blofield and North Burlingham, and around five and a half miles between North Tuddenham and Easton.

The A47/A11 Thickthorn junction is also to be upgraded, along with junctions and roundabouts at Great Yarmouth.

Mr Cameron said in 2015 that diggers would go in during his parliament and joked: "I may have to get the diggers out myself".

There have been two further prime ministers since, but not one digger has rolled on to the road.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil PerryAndrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

Work on the Yarmouth junction improvements should have started in 2018 or 2019.

But that was put on hold by Highways England because they say the Third River Crossing may have a "significant impact" on traffic flows, so the changes need to be reassessed.

Norfolk County Council has become increasingly frustrated at Highways England - saying the lack of work is costing the county dearly in economic terms.

The council recently criticised the "agonisingly slow" progress, calling on traffic regulator the Office of Rail and Road to hold Highways England to account.

The A47 between North Tuddenham and Easton . Pic: Highways England.The A47 between North Tuddenham and Easton . Pic: Highways England.

County Hall leader Andrew Proctor said: "It does worry me that a body like this is so inept in understanding what the role they are supposed to be fulfilling is.

"We've said before that if we were given the power to do this work, we'd get on and do it."

The council has said the county is losing money because work has not been done and business bosses agreed it affects them.

Rob Scott, of Cabins Unlimited, lives in Dereham and had his first showroom of timber buildings and sheds at Aldiss Park.

Cabins Unlimited director Rob Scott. Picture: Cabins UnlimitedCabins Unlimited director Rob Scott. Picture: Cabins Unlimited

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But he has closed that part of his business.

Mr Scott said: "We opened two sites in Norwich and Downham and it pulled the customers there instead. It's ironic that Dereham is in the middle of Norfolk and yet no one can get here.

"If the A47 had been dualled years ago I think we would've had a lot more businesses in the area, it would've done really good things for the town's economy."

Dale Curtis, founder of moped hire business Kickstart in Dereham, said dualling the A47 could double the group's £750,000 turnover.

He said: "Currently 75pc of our work is in Norfolk, but the appetite is there for us to be able to do the same amount of business in Cambridgeshire.

"We waste so much time and money because we have 350 mopeds we take all over the region and it takes us so much longer than it needs to."

And there is frustration among communities. People in North Burlingham are angry at what they say is a failure to engage by Highways England.

Chris Gates, chairman of Burlingham Cottage Gardeners, said villagers and parish councils had been trying to get commitments over crossings and footpaths as part of the work to dual that section of the road.

But he said: "There is a real lack of consultation and they simply don't engage. We have outlined what we think could be done to maintain or enhance access, but they haven't even got costings.

"I am starting to come to the conclusion that they don't care about communities."

When the government announced the timetable for the work in 2017, the Thickthorn work and North Tuddenham to Easton dualling were meant to start between 2020 and 2021.

They said dualling between Blofield and North Burlingham, would start between 2021 and 2022.

Highways England has said: "We share the county council's eagerness to see the upgrades delivered as soon as possible and value their support as we take each scheme through its development."

They say statutory consultation on the Tuddenham dualling would start next month, with work due to start in spring 2022.

They said that was also the case with the Blofield to North Burlingham work, while Thickthorn work is due to start in spring 2021.

They said they were "still refining" plans for the Great Yarmouth roundabouts.

The EDP has, through the Just Dual It! campaign, called for a commitment for more investment to dual the A47.

On a pre-election visit to Norfolk Boris Johnson said his government would spend money on the road.

And Graham Plant, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council previously said: "What we don't want is for them to say, now that we are five years in, that the cost is now £350m and they say that they need to take that extra money out of any future funding we get for the next tranche of road improvements."

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