Opponents hit out at plans for Norwich Northern Distributor Road

Campaigners who say the northern distributor road is not needed have distributed thousands of cards to homes around Norwich urging people to help stop the 'road to nowhere' from destroying swathes of countryside.

While supporters argue the NDR will ease rat-running and is vital infrastructure to enable 37,000 new homes and 27,000 new jobs to be created in and around Norwich, those who are against the �112.5m road have been vociferous in their opposition to it.

They say it would do nothing to ease congestion, is not needed to make much vaunted improvements to public transport and is merely a means to develop on countryside to the north and east of Norwich.

Opponents include the Norwich and Norfolk Transport Action Group (NNTAG), the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Norwich and Norfolk Friends of the Earth and the community campaign group SNUB (Stop Norwich Urbanisation).

As Norfolk County Council tries to make the case to the government to fund the road, they have joined forces to distribute thousands of cards urging people to object to the destruction of the Broadland landscape.

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The cards say the road will cost millions of pounds at a time when public services are being cut, generate more cars and more congestion, divert money from more sustainable transport measures and contribute to global warming.

They want people to send the cards to transport secretary Norman Baker, urging him not to give Norfolk County Council the cash it wants for the NDR.

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The Norwich and Norfolk Transport Action Group has been one of the most vocal opponents of the project. Denise Carlo, from the group, said the money would be better spent on a public transport improvements than on a road.

She said: 'Community and environmental groups are united with developers in stating that growth is not reliant on a NDR.

'We agree that small scale road links and modest improvements to the A47 Postwick junction are appropriate as part of a package, alongside excellent cross city public transport, walking and cycling.

'And why force massive housing growth in north-east Norwich, whilst major employment areas are to the south west of the city and city centre?'

The county council argues that the NDR will connect employment areas such as Broadland Business Park and Norwich International Airport.

And they say stopping the NDR will not stop growth. The council says development would grow in a more haphazard way and the NDR is a way to help plan and control that growth.

But NNTAG's view is shared by the Stop Norwich Urbanisation Group (SNUB), which was formed in 2009 because of concern the development plan of the Greater Norwich Development Partnership – made up of councils in Norwich, Broadland and South Norfolk – would see areas to the north and east of Norwich concreted over.

Stephen Heard, chairman of SNUB, has launched a legal challenge against the Joint Core Strategy, a blueprint for where the local councils think 37,000 homes and 27,000 jobs should be built over the next 15 years.

He said: 'We were told at a public meeting in 2009 by the then Broadland District Council leader Simon Woodbridge that if the NDR was not built there would not be development in the north east, which shows it is just to facilitate growth and nothing to do with easing congestion.

'We have always felt the road is a white elephant, particularly now that it will stop at the A140. It has always struck me as bizarre that they talk about an eco-town at Rackheath based on sustainability principles when it needs a four lane carriageway to make it work.

'We would prefer to see investment in the A11 and the A47. Local employment would benefit more from that.'

Mr Heard countered the county council's view that without the NDR, development would still happen, in a haphazard way. He said: 'It's not a done deal that the development will happen, which is why I have, at great expense, launched the legal challenge.

'We see no real plan for employment in the north east. The councils say the NDR is going to support employment, but where will that be?'

'They say the road will kick-start the economy, but who is going to buy all these houses and where are the jobs going to come from?

'The whole scheme is a nonsense. Norwich will become the size of Nottingham or Bristol and do we want that for a city of splendour which has got so much to offer?'

Green Party councillors at both Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council are against the road. Andrew Boswell, Green Party. spokesman on environment, transport and development at County Hall, said: 'This is bad growth at any cost. 'The road will carve up the countryside on one side of Norwich and bring unsustainable housing development and sprawl in its wake.

'More car journeys, greater congestion to serve out-of-town retail and business parks are too great a cost for any supposed economic benefit.'

He argued a 'different vision' was needed and said: 'There's nearly a million empty homes in this country, thousands in Norfolk that could immediately be brought back into use to help with the housing shortage.

'There's empty shops and business in the city: we need investment in jobs now to bring those back into use along with a good public transport system for people to get to them.

'Houses are not being built because buyers and developers are finding it difficult to finance them since the credit crunch.

'Building a road does not solve the housing crisis, nor does it prevent economic stagnation and create the jobs we need right now in the Norwich area.'

The county council claims it has looked at alternatives and that the Norwich Area Transport Strategy, complete with rapid bus transit routes, will improve public transport.

While Broadland District Council leader Andrew Proctor says the road is needed, Nich Starling, the leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group fears that, because it stops at the A140, it will simply funnel thousands of cars through areas to the west of the route, such as Hellesdon, Horsford, Taverham, Drayton, Ringland and Costessey to get to the A47.

The charity Campaign for Better Transport has also attacked the road, pointing to the vast sums of money which has already been spent preparing the way for it.

They say that the cost of the proposed 14km road, which will stretch from the A47 at Postwick to the A140 near Norwich International Airport, works out at �8,036 per metre.

Sian Berry, Campaign for Better Transport's sustainable transport campaigner, said: 'The cost to local taxpayers of this road is staggering at a time when vital public services are being slashed.

'The expense of this scheme is all the more hard to justify when there are other proven solutions which are cheaper, will cut congestion and reduce car usage.

'Local people should be outraged at just how much this road to nowhere is going to cost them.'

She said, of the 45 transport schemes in the government' development pool vying for a share of a �630m pot of cash, the NDR is one of the schemes which has the highest council contributions, with the council planning to borrow �22m towards the scheme.

But the county council says the road has one of the highest value for money ratios of any of the schemes on the list and that it will give the local economy a �1.3bn shot in the arm.

Developers, including Beyond Green, which wants to build 5,000 homes in the parishes of Sprowston, Beeston St Andrew, Old Catton and Spixworth, have said existing infrastructure can be improved to create those communities, rather than through the building of the NDR.

And, at the examination last year into the Joint Core Strategy, other developers, such as Barton Willmore and Building Partnerships – behind the eco-town at Rackheath – questioned an over-reliance on the NDR for growth to happen.

However, the county council says the NDR is vital, or else piecemeal development will spring up, without the proper infrastructure to serve them.

SNUB is holding a public meeting on Thursday next week where members will talk about the legal challenge to the joint core strategy. The meeting will take place at 7pm at the Church Hall in Salhouse Road, Rackheath.

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