A47 safety work

LANDOWNERS on the Acle Straight were only contacted this summer about moving ditches as part of a safety trial - four years after the decision was made.

LANDOWNERS on the Acle Straight were only contacted this summer about moving ditches as part of a safety trial - four years after the decision was made.

And they are angry with the implication they were to blame for the hold-up.

This month, Highways Agency project manager Ranjit Mistry told campaign group the A47 Alliance that plans to trial moving dangerous ditches away from the roadside had been held up because the agency had failed to reach an agreement with landowners about buying their land.

But two of the landowners - Tom Banham, 51 and Edward Wharton, 43 - said the agency had not contacted them until July this year, even though the trial was first mooted as long ago as 2005.

A number of motorists have died after accidents resulted in their vehicles leaving the road and falling into the water-filled ditches and drowning.

The Highways Agency was looking into moving the ditches to prevent further deaths.

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But environmentalists raised concerns the plans would damage the wildlife, so the agency wants to carry out a trial by moving some ditches to see what effect there would be on the flora and fauna.

Farmer Mr Banham, who owns Ash Tree Farm, has been approached by the agency about buying a 3,000sq m section of ditches in one of his fields, about halfway between the Vauxhall Holiday Park and the Pontiac roadhouse.

But he said the only correspondence he had had was with a property firm working on behalf of the agency, which had written to him in July offering him �750 to claim the land for a two-year period.

One of the firm's representatives visited the site on July 30 for an inspection.

However, he did not know whether he would get the land back after two years or whether the agency needed it for longer, only that it intended to move the ditches 14 metres further away from the road.

He said: “It was all very vague and it just seemed all very strange from the beginning and for the Highways Agency to say they have not been able to sort out terms with the landowners - I myself can say they have not put any effort into it.

“It seems to me to be just a total sham.”

Mr Wharton, director of Charles Wharton Ltd, said his farming firm was also not contacted until July, when the agency's property consultants asked about buying some of its land on both sides of the Acle Straight close to the Stracey Arms pub.

The land is currently being used to graze cattle.

He said: “Everything's being dealt with in the normal way, but it is quite a big thing and it does take a number of months if not years to get these things sorted and perhaps they should have contacted us a bit earlier.

“I am sure we will end up with an agreement, but they are having to deal with a number of different farms and agents and they have all got different figures in terms of what their land is worth.”

No one from the Highways Agency was available for comment.

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