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‘Wouldn’t find Norfolk on a map’ - Committee’s scathing attack on Highways England

PUBLISHED: 16:29 29 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:29 29 January 2020

Stuart Clancy and Brian Watkins were among councillors to suggest Highways England would struggle to find Norfolk on a map. Picture: Environment Agancy/Norfolk Conservatives/Norfolk Lib Dems

Stuart Clancy and Brian Watkins were among councillors to suggest Highways England would struggle to find Norfolk on a map. Picture: Environment Agancy/Norfolk Conservatives/Norfolk Lib Dems

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“I doubt they would find Norfolk on a map.”

Stuart Clancy, Conservative candidate for Taverham. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.Stuart Clancy, Conservative candidate for Taverham. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

That is the scathing assessment of Highways England from frustrated councillors who have called for the roads agency to be scrapped.

The comments came as Norfolk County Council's infrastructure and planning committee was tasked with responding to a call for feedback on the transport agency.

A report from officers to the committee described the "agonisingly slow" progress made on improvement works to the A47, which were supposed to be carried out between 2015 and 2020.

Officers had asked the committee to approve a response calling for the government's traffic regulator - the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) - to intervene earlier in these cases.

Brian Watkins, Liberal Democrat councillor for Eaton. Pic: Liberal Democrats.Brian Watkins, Liberal Democrat councillor for Eaton. Pic: Liberal Democrats.

However, the committee instead urged the council to go further in its criticism, brandishing Highways England "not fit for purpose" and calling for it to be scrapped.

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Stuart Clancy, the Conservative councillor leading the calls, said: "The time has come for action - the A47 project has got nowhere. You never speak to the same person twice in Highways England.

"Realistically, Highways England is just not fit for purpose. Most of their people have no idea where Norfolk is and how our roads systems work."

His frustration was echoed by Liberal Democrat Brian Watkins, who said: "One thing that really worries me is that sometimes it feels they don't even know where Norfolk is - I doubt they would find it on a map.

"I think it is unacceptable that we have had five years of inactivity. It is right that we should expect better."

Barry Stone, the committee's chairman, said the lack of progress was "increasingly frustrating".

Conservative councillor Bev Spratt added that he felt the council's executives had not placed enough pressure on Highways England to deliver the promised improvements - and that more lobbying was needed.

The council's cabinet will now be asked to approve calls to lobby the government to find alternative means of delivering major roads infrastructure than Highways England.

Highways England has been approached for comment.


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