Acle Straight dualling: 15 times hopes were raised... And dashed again
PUBLISHED: 06:45 18 September 2020
Promises to dual the Acle Straight appear, like a comet, every few years - before disappearing again into the night.
Dreams of improving the nine-mile stretch of road, built in the 1830s, have been on the cards since at least the 1950s when a headline in the Great Yarmouth Mercury announced: “Acle New Road may become a dual-way in five to seven years.”
We’ve pulled together a whistle-stop tour of those hopes’ long and pot-holed history.
• May, 1989
It was in 1989 that a government white paper promised that within 10 years the A47 would be dualled all the way from Peterborough to Great Yarmouth, raising expectations and bringing about jubilation among business bosses.
• March, 1994
But in what would become a familiar pattern, those hopes were dashed after government cutbacks killed off more than half of then transport secretary John MacGregor’s road improvement plans, with the news sparking fear Norfolk was being left behind in the battle for modern efficient links.
• February, 1998
By this time it was already being referred to as a “long-running campaign” - but a major obstacle seemed to have been removed after planners and conservationists reached agreement over a slender stretch of protected marshland along the route.
• October, 2001
Highways Agency consultants recommended widening the road to the modern single carriageway standard rather than dualling it.
Meanwhile, campaigners said it was likely dualling the road would prevent 14 fatal or serious injury accidents over a 10-year period.
• November, 2004
Dualling apparently moved a step closer with the publication of an economic report, which laid out the road’s essential role in the regeneration of Great Yarmouth.
The report was hailed by lobby group the A47 Alliance as the missing link and sent to the transport secretary.
• March, 2005
A freedom of information request revealed the cost of dualling the Acle Straight had shot up to £56m - double its previous estimate - and council chiefs accused the government of deliberately inflating the price to keep the project on the back burner.
• June, 2005
Transport minister Karen Buck said even if a decision was made in the following months, work would not start before 2011, but told the House of Commons she expected to be able to make a decision in the near future.
• July, 2006
Roads minister Stephen Ladyman rejected dualling plans, citing environmental pressure as a key reason.
• March, 2007
A Gorleston man launched an online petition on the government’s website, demanding that action is taken to improve safety on the road notorious for accidents.
• December, 2014
Prime minister David Cameron pledged £300m for series of A47 improvements - but campaigners were disappointed the Acle Straight was not included in the plans.
• July, 2015
Attention turned to a small aquatic snail which lives in marsh drains and ditches along the road.
It was said at the time if the mollusc, on the red list of endangered species, could thrive in a new home, that could open the door to dualling.
But Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said: “It’s absolutely ludicrous we hold up agreed safety improvements on a road where people’s lives have been lost because of some snails.”
• March, 2018
The EDP, Norfolk County Council and the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce launched the ‘Just Dual It’ campaign.
• May, 2018
Council leaders said a deal which would see Great Yarmouth port serving as the base for a company building two huge windfarms off the coast of Norfolk highlighted why the government must fully dual the A47.
• December, 2018
The snails made the headlines again, after it was announced a further five years would be needed before experts established whether the their relocation was a success.
• September, 2020
The government announced that the dualling of the section between Acle and Yarmouth will not be included in the third round of its road improvement strategy for projects from 2025 to 2030.
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