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Five year snail study delay to work on A47 Acle Straight would be ‘unacceptable’, says MP

PUBLISHED: 09:18 20 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:26 20 December 2018

The Acle Straight. Pic: Nick Butcher

The Acle Straight. Pic: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

The need for a five year study of snails near the Acle Straight has prompted Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis to write to highways bosses saying any delay in getting work done on the road would be “unacceptable”.

A Little Whirlpool Ramshorn Snail. Pic: Bill DarnellA Little Whirlpool Ramshorn Snail. Pic: Bill Darnell

Dykes around that stretch of the A47 are among the few habitats of the little whirlpool ramshorn snail – which is on an international ‘red list’ of endangered species.

The rarity of the miniscule molluscs are protected by law, so Highways England has to ensure any work done on the road, including the installation of safety barriers or the long-called for dualling of the road does not threaten them.

Highways England has moved hundreds of snails away from the dykes by the side of the road to other parts of the marshes.

Initial results from studies of whether that has been a success has shown the snails, which have shells less than a fifth of an inch in diameter have survived the switch.

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis. 

Picture: James BassGreat Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis. Picture: James Bass

And the study has also shown the snails are breeding, so this year has seen the relocation of the last of the snails which were still close to the road.

However, Highways England says they now needed to be monitored for another five years, so work could not be done until 2023 at the earliest.

But the A47 Alliance, which brings together councils, businesses, MPs and other stakeholders, say the timescales could still allow the Department for Transport to finance dualling of the Acle Straight in the next funding round.

And Mr Lewis has written to Highways England urging them to find a solution which could enable work to happen before the five years are up.

He said: “I fully appreciate the agency has a responsibility towards an endangered species such as these snails, but the underlying human priorities means that such a delay would be absolutely unacceptable to myself and my constituents, and I am hopeful that the Highways Agency will be able to find a solution, which allow work to continue without impacting on its environmental responsibilities.”

He said the A47 is a “crucial road for Great Yarmouth” and said the Acle Straight in its current form “is clearly not fit for purpose and acts as a literal bottleneck on economic development in Great Yarmouth.”

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