Warren Road cycle scheme faces funds battle

BIG budget dilemmas have put a spoke in the wheel of controversial plans for a �80,000 cycle way linking Hopton and Gorleston along Warren Road.

Letters were due to be sent out this week to people on both sides of the saga telling them that the scheme cannot now be delivered in this financial year – and will have to punch its way for a share of Norfolk County Council’s shrinking pot of cash in the next.

John Birchall, spokesman for Norfolk County Council, said members had some tough decisions to make in the light of this week’s worse-than-expected Government funding settlement and that with the scheme among a wishlist of spending priorities it could run out of cash.

Attempts to upgrade the stretch to make what supporters say is a safer route to school sparked a storm and attempts to actually get on with the work in May resulted in a blockade at the southern end.

Meanwhile, and adding to delays which have pushed it beyond this year’s programme, the council faces legal procedures to overcome the eight objections to the Warren Road adoption order.

However there is also widespread support for the scheme which has the backing of Hopton Parish Council, the borough council, the Cycle Forum and some Warren Road residents who maintain the current cycle way along the A12 is too dangerous for youngsters on bikes and that upgrading the path will have wider community benefits.

Mr Birchall said: “This is exactly what some people have been hoping for, but for all the people who were hoping for a better cycle way it will be very disappointing. It has fallen foul of the spending cuts and since it cannot be progressed straight away because we would have to take it to magistrates it is going to have to be considered alongside the other schemes and there is little funding available. There is a question mark about whether it will be in next year’s programme. The progress of the scheme is in serious doubt. The grant settlement is worse than we expected. Now we are examining all schemes and expenditure and this is one that could be at risk.

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Mike Butcher, chairman of Hopton Parish Council, said: “We are very disappointed that a project that has been supported by Hopton Parish Council for many years (and one which should have been completed some months ago), is now pushed back to 2011/12.

“Let us hope that the scheme will receive support in the next round of budget negotiations from both county councillors involved who have so far supported the Warren Road cycle path scheme.

“Hopton Parish Council is still committed to the scheme and will continue to monitor progress during these difficult economic times. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the many residents, schools and organisations both in Gorleston and Hopton that have offered their support over the years.”