Road chaos fears for Paston College, Aylsham High, and Colby Primary pupils as B1145 at Felmingham set to close for up to eight weeks
Thousands of motorists, schoolchildren, students and villagers are bracing themselves for up to eight weeks of disruption when the main link road between two north Norfolk market towns closes next week.
The B1145 from North Walsham to Aylsham is due to shut at Felmingham from Monday while Anglian Water (AW) carries out �275,000 of work in the village.
A complicated list of alternative routes for some buses, many diverted via Colby, has been drawn up by Norfolk County Council.
But the official diversion would send traffic on an 18-mile cross-country journey via North Walsham, former RAF Coltishall, Buxton and the A140.
The road closure is on a main route for Paston Sixth Form College students from Aylsham and surrounding villages, North Walsham-area children attending Aylsham High School, and Colby Primary School pupils.
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Kelly Foye, office manager for coach firm Marret's Bluebird, said the closure would have a 'huge impact' on their services between North Walsham and Aylsham.
The firm ferries about 70 children to and from Aylsham High School using two coaches, including a 53-seater vehicle.
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Ms Foye said on Tuesday that they had received no notification about the closure but, unless otherwise directed, would legally have to use the official diversion when the school half-term holiday ended on Monday.
'Obviously we will be using a lot more fuel and it will be a nightmare trying to run buses to a schedule,' said Ms Foye. 'You either have to pick up the children earlier, or get them into school late.'
The closure will start at the B1145 junction with Church Road in Felmingham and extend through the village to the last house on the left, towards Aylsham.
Damian Coughtrey, who bought Felmingham Stores in the centre of the village last July, said he was 'absolutely fuming' about the closure as he relied on passing trade for about 50 per cent of his business.
Local radio announcements had wrongly stated that the closure was already in place and Mr Coughtrey said he feared some motorists were already avoiding the area. He said he would be seeking compensation from AW.
David Baker, of interior designers Baker Rhodes, on the outskirts of Felmingham, said there had been inadequate and mixed information about the closure and he was angry that on Tuesday morning AW had still not put up notices saying that businesses would be open as usual.
AW spokesman Antony Innes said that the notices would be going up on Monday when the closure began, and that they would discuss compensation with Mr Coughtrey.
The AW scheme would see 2km of water mains replaced in Felmingham leading to a 'dramatic reduction' in the number of bursts which had affected the pipe serving homes in Highfields and on part of Aylsham Road.
John Clare, of AW, said: 'We are sorry for the inconvenience that will be caused by the road closure but these new pipes will give people in Felmingham one of the most up-to-date and reliable water supplies in the country.
'The benefits should last a lifetime and will hopefully far outweigh any inconvenience.'
Norfolk County Council spokesman John Birchall said they tried to keep roads open whenever possible but health and safety rules had been tightened in recent years because of the high risk of accidents through road works. The safety of the travelling public, people living in the area, and the work crew was paramount.
Official diversions had to use roads of a similar standard to those affected but Mr Birchall said car drivers often used their local knowledge to find short cuts.