Plans finally lodged for A47 'bottleneck' dualling - six years on
- Credit: Highways England
Plans for a 'bottleneck' part of the A47 in Norfolk to be dualled have been lodged, more than six years after the government announced millions of pounds were available for the road.
The leader of Norfolk County Council welcomed the milestone for the dualling of the road between Blofield and North Burlingham, but criticised the length of time to get to this point - with the timetable for work having repeatedly slipped.
In 2014, then prime minister David Cameron announced £300m would be spent to dual sections of the road, including on the stretch between Blofield and North Burlingham.
In 2017, Highways England revealed the various options for that section of the A47 between Norwich and Great Yarmouth, which often suffers from congestion.
In November that year the preferred option for upgrading the Blofield to North Burlingham stretch was announced.
At that time, the timetable to start dualling the section was between 2020/21.
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It is now listed as due to start in 2022/3, not complete until 2024/25.
There has been further public consultation since the initial announcement and plans have now been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate.
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The proposals for the scheme, which would cost between £50m and £100m, will replace the existing single-lane section with a new two-lane dual carriageway, 70m south of the existing road.
Highways England says safety improvements will also be made to the Yarmouth Road junction, closing the right turn and adding a dedicated lane to join the A47.
A new bridge will also be added over the new dual carriageway to connect the villages of Blofield and North Burlingham, and to take traffic from Blofield toward Great Yarmouth.
Chris Griffin, Highways England programme lead for the A47 schemes, said: "This stretch of road connects areas of growing economic activity between Norwich and Great Yarmouth.
"Whilst around half of the A47 is already dual carriageway, the Blofield to North Burlingham section is not.
"Sandwiched between two dual carriageway sections, this stretch of the road acts as a bottleneck, resulting in congestion and slower journey times.
“The decision represents a major milestone for the scheme, not only for us as the project team but for all those who have supported this project over a number of years.
"We look forward to moving onto the next stage of the decision process and for construction to begin in the coming years.”
The Planning Inspectorate will now start the process of a full examination of Highways England’s proposals before deciding whether to grant a Development Consent Order, which would give the green-light for construction to begin.
That process would give people the chance to have their say in writing, as well as participate in hearings.
Following that process, the planning inspector will make a recommendation to transport secretary Grant Shapps, who will make a final decision.
The work is part of £300m of improvements to the A47 between Peterborough and Great Yarmouth, which also includes changes to the A11 Thickthorn junction and dualling North Tuddenham to Easton.
The slow pace of getting that work started has led to Norfolk County Council criticism of Highways England, with County Hall leader Andrew Proctor last year branding the agency "inept".
He said today: "We certainly appreciate that, at last, Highways England have got this far.
"We are still concerned that it has taken this sort of time.
"Let's hope it does not take a similar amount of time for the development consent order and to get to delivery.
"It is delivery that matters now. Okay, we have got this far, but we are still way behind where the process was meant to be by this stage."
There has been frustration among people living in North Burlingham over the scheme.
More than 1,000 people signed a petition calling for a crossing and footpaths, so it would be possible for cyclists and pedestrians to get between North Burlingham and Lingwood.
But Chris Gates, chairman of Burlingham Cottage Gardeners, said their pleas had been ignored.
He said: "What seems to have been the case is, despite promising to maintain and improve local access, I believe Highways England are fixated on east to west trucking.
"While having the budget to do so, they would not engage with the people they intend to bulldoze through to realise their plans."
The EDP has, through the Just Dual It! campaign, called for a commitment for more investment to dual the A47.