Acle Straight restricting growth of Great Yarmouth

THE region’s politicians have launched a campaign to get the congested and hazardous Acle Straight dualled to allow industry to reach its true potential.

Plans to upgrade the road date back to 1971, but funding has never been forthcoming and conservationists say work would damage the Broads.

But this week County Hall announced the launch of a fresh campaign to attract funding into improving the length of the A47, and Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis called on Ministers to upgrade the status of the road.

Graham Plant, county cabinet member for planning and transport, said: “Improving the A47 is at the very top of our list as far as transport is concerned.” Mr Plant is also chairman of the A47 Alliance, and is campaigning to improve the flow of industry traffic between Yarmouth and the Midlands.

Derrick Murphy, leader of the county council, announced the campaign at Monday’s cabinet meeting. Officers will be compiling a solid business and economic benefit case to improve chances of securing funding.

And it comes as Mr Lewis is calling for the Acle Straight to be upgraded from a comprehensive route to a Trans European Network Transport (TENT) One route.

TENT One status would open avenues to EU funding for improvement work - but the Acle Straight does not currently have enough HGV traffic to be upgraded.

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Campaigners have said this is a catch 22 situation as Yarmouth industry is trying to expand, and this would bring more HGV traffic to the road - but the road is already at capacity due to weight of domestic traffic.

And Mr Lewis is asking for Ministers to look at an area’s economic potential.

“A dualled A47 would hugely benefit residents, businesses and visitors and it is vital everyone comes together to lobby for this change. I’m not saying I’m going to get the Acle Straight dualled, but we need to lay the groundwork.”

He added the Acle Straight is restricting growth of the outer harbour and other industry in the borough. Tourism chiefs say traffic jams on the Acle Straight are not deterring people from visiting Yarmouth, but they are costing coach travel companies dear as well as heavy industry.

Charles Reynolds, borough council cabinet member for tourism and owner of Reynolds Coaches, says Yarmouth’s transport links are in need of an overhaul.

“From the economic point of view any improvement on that Napoleonic track has got to be a plus,” he said. “For many years we’ve been calling for this but I think I would be lucky to see anything happen in my lifetime.”

He added building an A149 link road could help solve problems, and that dualling the A47 would not be a miracle cure unless significant work were done to improve the Vauxhall Roundabout bottleneck.

While Brandon Lewis MP believes pursuing EU funding is the best way to upgrade the Acle Straight, the question of domestic funding is in the hands of the newly formed Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

A spokesperson for the Highways Agency said: “Improvements to the A47 Acle Straight are not included in the Investment in Highways Transport Schemes, published following the Spending Review 2010, which details schemes on the trunk road and motorway network starting before 2015.

“Under the new regional planning system, any future dualling scheme would have to be identified as a priority by the relevant Local Enterprise Partnership, which in this case is the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.”

Roads Minister Mike Penning added: “Following representations from Brandon Lewis MP and a visit to the A47 to see the issues for myself, I have asked officials to look closely at how the road is designated, and to report back to me.”

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