Police want Acle Straight dualled, ecologists say No!

INTERNATIONAL business, road traffic collisions and endangered water voles in dykes are at the heart of some of the arguments over whether the Acle Straight should be dualled.

The issue of upgrading the main arterial route into Yarmouth is a controversial one that has caused much debate over the last four decades.

Police say the stretch of A-road between Acle and Yarmouth - which is lined with water dykes - is hazardous and they would welcome dualling work.

A van driving along the Acle Straight crashed into a water dyke on Wednesday this week, and its male driver was released with minor injuries.

Police were called to the incident on the Yarmouth bound carriageway at around 8.55am, and police, the ambulance service and fire crews attended.

Inspector David Ball, of Acle Roads Policing Unit, said: “Police would like to see dual carriageways purely from a road safety point of view.

“The dykes that run either side make the risk of drowning that much greater We can attest to attending collisions where cars are in the dyke, and that’s an added factor you don’t get on many roads.”

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He said it was difficult to compare the Acle Straight with other sections of A-road, but referred to recent collision statistics. Between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011 there were 13 collisions resulting in injury, with three of these being serious injuries, on the eight-mile Acle Straight in the Yarmouth bound direction.

There were no fatalities. But in the same period on the three-mile Yarmouth bound stretch at North Burlingham there were three collisions resulting in injury, with one fatality.

While safety campaigners are calling for dualling work, conservationists are opposed to it.

The Broads Society sent a letter to the Secretary of State for Transport opposing dualling in 2005, and current society chairman Peter Horsefield confirmed its position has not changed.

The group’s main objection is the harm that would be caused to wildlife-rich land on the river side of the road if it were dualled.

Ecologist Jane Harris, who has carried out environmental surveys on behalf of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said there were a substantial number of endangered water voles in the dykes and populations could be harmed by dualling work.

And leading Broads conservationist Dr Martin George OBE said: “Dualling could be very damaging and one of the issues is the extent to which wildlife could be affected.”

He would welcome work to move dykes back: “Nothing is more awful than the idea of drowning in an upturned car.”

Work to set the dykes back has been discussed with landowners, and has been mooted as a compromise which would make the road safer but would not deal with congestion.

Business leaders say the Acle Straight must be improved to support HGV traffic for the outer harbour and other growing industry in Yarmouth.

Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said: “The A47 alongside the A14 is the spinal cord of the transport nervous system and it is essential that we find the funding to help maintain and expand its potential.”