A47 dualling: what, when and how did we get here?
- Credit: Danielle Booden
After seven years, plans to dual sections of the A47 are being heard by the Planning Inspectorate this week.
Highways England (HE) is looking to improve the A47 in six places between Peterborough and Great Yarmouth as part of a £300m project, including the sections between, North Tuddenham and Easton, and Blofield and North Burlingham.
What's in the North Tuddenham to Easton plan?
Included in the plans are 9km of new dual carriageway between Hockering and Honingham, two new junctions at the Wood Lane/Berry's Lane and Norwich Road/Blind Lane junctions, alongside the removal of the Easton roundabout.
There are also plans for an underpass for traffic and pedestrians at Mattishall Lane, replacing the Church Lane underpass and link road and a walking and cycling route from Honingham to St Andrew’s Church.
What's in the Blofield to North Burlingham plan?
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Replacing the existing single-lane section with a new 2.6km dual carriageway, 70m south of the existing road.
Highways England says safety improvements will also be made to the Yarmouth Road junction, closing the right turn and adding a dedicated lane to join the A47.
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A new bridge will also be added over the new dual carriageway to connect Blofield and North Burlingham villages and take traffic from Blofield toward Great Yarmouth.
What's in the Thickthorn plan?
The proposals include a new slip road off the A11 northbound, before the roundabout, which will take motorists beneath both roads before rejoining traffic on the A47 heading towards Great Yarmouth - eliminating the need to use the roundabout.
The overhaul of the roundabout will also see a segregated left-hand turn added to those travelling eastbound on the A47, a new footbridge added and a fourth lane on the southern part of the junction.
How did we get here?
Suggestions for work on the A47 go back decades but really got rolling in 2014 when the then prime minister, David Cameron, announced £300m would be spent on dualling sections of the road.
This was set to be funded in the 2015-20 parliament, with the then shadow chancellor Ed Balls promising any incoming Labour government would maintain support.
Between late 2014 and 2016 details were sparse, until HE began traffic surveys in April 2016 and a call for evidence in July.
In 2019, Highways England said work on the Blofield and North Burlingham and Thickthorn schemes was due to start in 2022.
But Graham Plant, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council, said it should have started sooner, arguing that Norfolk had "lost revenue and its ability to generate revenue" because of the delays.
December 2019, NCC leader Andrew Proctor, wrote to the PM asking for investment.
In January 2020, Norfolk County Council slammed HE for the "agonisingly slow" progress if the work
February 2021, plans are finally lodged and will go through the planning inspectorate before they are submitted to the secretary of state for final approval.
When will construction happen?
It is now due to start in 2022/3 and not completed until 2024/25, almost five years after originally envisioned.
What are the proposed benefits?
In May, police backed plans to dual part of the A47 in Norfolk, saying it will "dramatically reduce" crashes in bottlenecked traffic.
There have been 33 crashes in which people were killed or hurt on the A47 between Blofield and North Burlingham over the past decade, Norfolk police said.
HE has argued the scheme is in the public interest and will cut journey times and provide sustainable economic growth.
What concerns have been raised?
How the A47 dualling will fit in with the plans for the £198m Norwich Western Link road and long-mooted Food Enterprise Park have been of particular concern.
In June, one of the chief concerns of Norfolk County Council is what would happen if the Western Link is not built, or if it was delayed.
In an early August meeting, parish councils butted heads over the merits of the scheme, with concerns raised over whether road closures would force traffic into other rural areas.
Climate activists have said they will fight the plans, and other road-building schemes, in the courts.