Norwich’s £148.5m Northern Distributor Road gets government go-ahead
The controversial £148.5m Norwich Northern Distributor Road has been given government permission to go ahead.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin today agreed to grant a development consent order for the 12.5 mile road, which will stretch from the A1067 Fakenham Road at Attlebridge in the west to Postwick in the east.
The government has agreed to contribute £86.5m towards the scheme, but Norfolk County Council and developer contributions will be needed to cover the rest of the scheme.
The county council says the road will bring a huge economic boost and connected improvements, such as a rapid bus transit in Norwich.
But critics have warned it will lead to rat-running and say the homes which will spring up around it will concrete over swathes of the countryside.
Proposals for the road were revived more than a decade ago and the proposal was adopted by the county council in September 2005. But it has taken until now for it to formally get the go-ahead.
A panel of inspectors met last year to consider the evidence for and against the road and made their recommendation to the secretary of state.
The county council says the road has the potential to unlock £1bn of economic benefits to Norfolk. They say it will provide jobs and boost businesses in Norwich, Broadland and North Norfolk.
They say it will unlock new business sites, especially in north east Norwich and Broadland, improve access to existing industrial and commercial estates, and make some of the most attractive parts of Norfolk more accessible to tourists.
The Norfolk Chamber of Commerce welcomed the proposals as bringing greater accessibility, infrastructure for new homes and new jobs.
Aviva said the road would be particularly beneficial to the 2,000 staff who work at Broadland Business Park, while Norwich International Airport said it would help attract world-class businesses to the area.
However, the process has been mired in controversy. A long-standing criticism of the route is that it does not connect with the A47 to the west of Norwich, with the council having abandoned that plan because an environmentally acceptable and affordable way of crossing the Wensum valley could not be found.
And people living in places such as Great Plumstead, Thorpe End, Hockering, Weston Longville, Drayton and Costessey have raised concerns about the impact of the road where they live. At the public inquiry, one man from Thorpe End said it would be “the biggest piece of environmental destruction yet seen in Norfolk”.
Transport chiefs’ plans to bypass a tendering process and hand a contract for the road to its partner May Gurney was blocked by government lawyers amid claims of cronyism.
An investigation into how submissions over the road from critics went “missing” failed to arrive at a definitive view as to what happened.
The Norfolk County Council probe was launched after complaints by The Green Party, campaign group Stop Norwich Urbanisation (SNUB) and the Campaign to Protect Rural England that their submissions has been lost and had not formed part of last summer’s inquiry into the road.
A report by Al Collier, head of procurement, concluded he was “unable to arrive at a definitive view as to what happened”, but that he believed the council had received the submissions.
Although consent has been granted, opponents do now have the opportunity to launch a legal challenge against the decision.
The council says work could start late this year at the earliest, with completion in 2017.
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