Boats, rail vision to boost economy

IMAGINE being able to take a leisurely barge trip along the Broads into the heart of Acle or a train journey from Norwich to the tourist sights on Great Yarmouth seafront.

Well, if Michael Innes, president of the Norfolk Association of Architects, has his way this dream will become a reality.

The retired 79-year-old architect, who lives in Thorpe, has created a pamphlet “Do different, and do better – debating Norfolk’s future” to provide ideas for how the county can develop amid plans to build over 30,000 homes in the Norwich area.

He believed too much development had taken place without supporting transport infrastructure, including good rail and bus links, with the result that roads were becoming congested with cars.

Mr Innes, who was instrumental in designing the Castle Mall shopping centre in Norwich and Long Statton Parish Council offices, was responding to prime minister David Cameron’s appeal to the public for ideas for future government projects.

However, he admitted it was unlikely his ideas would come to fruition and that he had intended them more as a concept for improving transport within the county.

He said: “I chose Acle as an example and that is what it is. It is not a proposal for Acle as such, but I feel it would make Acle a better place to put growth to work in a way that would spin off to benefit because we cannot keep putting large numbers of houses anywhere without a vision of what we are creating.”

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He wanted Acle to live up to its billing as the “Gateway to the Broads” by flooding marshland between Acle bridge and the village centre so boats could literally get closer to the heart of the village.

His rail dream involved creating a light railway line from Norwich through Yarmouth station and down to the South Denes peninsula and possibly even as far as Gorleston’s James Paget University Hospital, opening up the town’s main tourist areas to direct trains from Norwich.

This, he believed, would help boost the economy and regenerate deprived parts of Yarmouth.

However, his vision was for better infrastructure to be created before other developments took place across Norfolk, including Wymondham and Long Stratton.

This concept of better planning was inspired by the experience of other European countries, such as Germany where developments only took place after the public transport links had been put in place.

“I believe we could have a brighter day, if only people could lift their eyes a little,” Mr Innes said.

The proposals were discussed at a meeting of Acle Parish Council on Monday.