Decision on Norwich northern bypass 'should be reached by Christmas'
Chris Fisher, political editor Norfolk could be given a Christmas present from the government of a go-ahead for the Norwich Northern Distributor Route.Transport minister Chris Mole told the Commons last night that it hoped to be able to announce a decision “by Christmas”.
Chris Fisher, political editor
Norfolk could be given a Christmas present from the government of a go-ahead for the Norwich Northern Distributor Route.
Transport minister Chris Mole told the Commons last night that it hoped to be able to announce a decision “by Christmas”. It was working hard to resolve outstanding issues and to complete its assessment of the scheme in time for that, he said.
He was responding to a plea from Norwich North MP Chloe Smith for a ministerial “programme entry” green light for the proposed road - a two carriageway highway running to the north of Norwich from the A1067 Fakenham road to the A47 to the east of the city, and running close to the Norwich International Airport and the proposed Rackheath eco-town.
The scheme already has official regional priority, and almost �80m of funding towards the �127m bill has been allocated. Stressing that Norfolk county council was committed to funding any remaining shortfall, Ms Smith told Mr Mole - the Ipswich MP - that “locally and regionally, we are ready to go if the minister will allow us a final decision”.
He said concerns about value for money, the environmental impact and traffic modelling had had to be looked at in the government assessment of the proposed 12.5 mile road.
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After the project had been discussed in a formal commons 'adjournment' debate, Ms Smith said she felt “positive” about its future, and was pleased that Mr Mole had recognised the argument that it could release traffic from the city centre.
But she regretted that the minister had appeared to be less interested in the 'NDR' than in discussing the government's roads record in the region over the past 12 years. “We just need to get on with it”, she said.
In the debate she argued that the proposed road “holds the key to a wider transport strategy which has the potential to transform travel choices in Norwich and Norfolk”.
“In my constituency both local residents and firms need this critical piece of infrastructure to get around and conduct their business. It is vital for those of us who live there, but also has wide-ranging and strategic significance for the region”, she emphasised.
She also cautioned the minister: “If his government wants to put 33,000 additional dwellings in the area including some in an ecotown in nearby Rackheath, he needs to give this road serious consideration.
“People do need new houses. Average house prices in my constituency have risen by 186pc in 10 years and now cost over 10 times the average salary.
“Many young families in my constituency talk about being unable to find a suitable property to live in. I want to see those people able to carry on living in Norwich.
“But the idea of 33,000 new homes dumped upon us from on high without enough infrastructure to support them is not visionary, but a nightmare.”