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Warning over economy if A11 not dualled

PUBLISHED: 08:58 26 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:44 03 July 2010

The economic viability of the county could be in jeopardy if the final single stretch of the A11 is not dualled, business leaders said yesterday.

Failure to upgrade the section between Thetford and the Fiveways roundabout at Barton Mills would perpetuate Norfolk's reputation as a "backwater" and cost businesses thousands more pounds in lost contracts and delays.

The economic viability of the county could be in jeopardy if the final single stretch of the A11 is not dualled, business leaders said yesterday.

Failure to upgrade the section between Thetford and the Fiveways roundabout at Barton Mills would perpetuate Norfolk's reputation as a “backwater” and cost businesses thousands more pounds in lost contracts and delays.

That was the case put forward by two business owners and several representatives in favour of the proposed Highways Agency scheme at the second day of a public inquiry.

According to figures from the East of England Development Agency, the A11 is already running at capacity with 25,000 vehicles a day using the road.

And with this set only to increase business leaders voiced their worries about the economic viability of the county. Jo Pearson, managing director and owner of Pearson's Recycling near Thetford, said his company had already lost in excess of £60,000 due to delays which could range from two minutes to more than an hour.

Simon Long, owner and director of Simon Long Removals in Thetford said an average of 16 vehicles and 32 employees a day were delayed by between 15 and 40 minutes. He said this cost him £192 per day. If the new scheme was put in place drivers could save an average of seven minutes in peak time traffic. A study by the East of England Development Agency showed the wider economic benefit could be in the region of £136m.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of Shaping Norfolk's Future, a private sector initiative to improve the county's economy said the current state of the road was a “physical and psychological barrier to growth”.

“The slow and unreliable journey times mean the single carriageway stretch reinforces the negative and damaging stereotype of Norfolk as a rural backwater,” he said.

Mike Brown, of Gateway A11 East which has lobbied support for the proposal, added that 73.7pc of businesses were losing up to nine hours per week alone on the single carriageway stretch of road and was critical of alternative schemes put forward by objectors.

Supporting statements from Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils and Norfolk's Chamber of Commerce were also heard.

Following the withdrawal of objections from Natural England and the RSPB, five individuals and a major landowner, the Elveden Estate, remain as objectors to the scheme.

Concerns have also been raised about the impact of the increased number of vehicles on one of the region's busiest junctions, the Fiveways roundabout at Barton Mills.

Peter Sturgeon has submitted a plan to bypass the village of Barton Mills and the Fiveways roundabout which he said would reduce the build up of traffic. He also worries concerns about an increase in noise.

“Taking a bold approach and making a re-route of the A11 will resolve the traffic difficulty. It will greatly increase the tranquillity of those living even closer to the present highway,” he said.

Robert Cauldwell, a separate objector, added that the key flaw with the Highways Agency plan was at the Elveden junction, and that cost and affordability was an issue.

The inquiry continues.

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