Infrastructure 'crucial' if A47 dualling brings more homes
- Credit: Danielle Booden
Communities have warned that it is "essential" infrastructure is put in place to support the tens of thousands of homes which could be built if the A47 is fully dualled.
Efforts to dual the road, which runs east to west from Lowestoft, through Great Yarmouth, Norwich, King's Lynn and out to Peterborough, have been under way for several years, and have been revived by Norfolk County Council (NCC).
On Monday, Martin Wilby, the county council's cabinet member for highways, said the three priorities of the A47 Alliance, of which NCC is a member, include the dualling of the Acle Straight, Tilney to East Winch and Wisbech to Peterborough.
He said these priorities would unlock 125,000 houses and 75,000 jobs, create an uplift worth more than £330m from new employment and bring £200m of benefits from enhanced productivity.
While the change has been welcomed in some corners, communities along the route have long warned about a limited capacity for more housing.
Parish councillor Richard Hawker, who represents Hockering, on the A47 between Norwich and Dereham, said it was “essential” that any further houses in the village be coupled with better school provision and flood management.
He said: “On sewage, the [local] plan says it's not so clear that Anglian Water has sufficient sewage capacity for extra houses."
Acle Parish Council clerk Pauline James also raised sewage pumping limitations as a concern for her community.
Addressing the question of more houses, she said: “It’s about managing the change, and it not all happening too fast.”
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Mr Wilby agreed it was "crucial" the county also puts in place "the appropriate infrastructure to support the housing growth and jobs" that come with the road.
But he said there was a chicken and egg element - the dualled highway would help to attract that infrastructure, he said, as it would make the county more accessible and appealing for business.
Another fear raised was increased pollution, with Green county councillor Jamie Osborn, saying there was an "obsession with making Norfolk a car county".
But Mr Wilby said: “We need the dualling on the A47 to lessen the congestion that we hear about every day along that route.”
He said that less congestion would mean less pollution, and that the extra carriageway would enable “more consistent journey times” for people travelling east or west across the county.
Mr Wilby also said a rise in electric vehicles in Norfolk will help to reduce emission rates.
Analysis by David Powles
My own village of Hethersett has witnessed one of the biggest growth rates of all places in Norfolk within the last few years.
And I've absolutely no problem with that in principle. It means more people to make friends with and more stars of the future for our under 9s football team, of which I am coach.
However, what I do find extremely frustrating is that while houses have sprouted up all over the place, core services for the people living in them haven't increased at the same rate.
Granted, the school provision has grown, but the village now has a doctor's surgery, local shop, chemist and even football team which are bursting at the seams.
And you see the impact of this almost every single day.
Last week my wife needed to pick up some medication for our son, which was due to be sent from the surgery to the chemist, which is a mere 50 yards away.
However, because the surgery was so busy there was a delay in it being sent over. Meanwhile, because the chemist was so busy, my wife had to wait for 30 minutes to find out about the delay.
Once it arrived at the chemist, they had their own delay in getting it labelled and ready to go out.
Last night, meanwhile, was my son's football training. However, because sports facilities are not big enough to cope with the demand for the sport, dozens of youngsters converge on the local park.
It makes for a wonderful village scene of children and families out and about having fun, but the reality is that people living nearby complain about the noise, the local parish council tells the clubs not to use the pitches in the evenings and children have to miss out on sport.
It really is a vicious circle.
My own personal view is that Norfolk can contend with some extra homes without it spoiling the very things that make the county so unique.
But if that is going to happen, those in charge need to demand developers provide the services and facilities needed alongside them.