26 August 2015

Norwich road price hike ‘a pointless use of public funds’, say campaigners

Campaigners have criticised plans to build an ‘unnecessary road’ in Norwich after it emerged an extra £30m would need to found to get the project off the ground.

The Campaign for Better Transport had already opposed plans for the Norwich Northern Distributor Road, describing it as a ‘dinosaur road project’ back in 2011.

It has reiterated its concerns after the Department for Transport allocated a further £10m towards the scheme on top of the original £160m costs and New Anglia LEP said it will pledge the same amount, pending ratification by its board. Norfolk County Council is also said to be considering matching that with a further £10m.

Sian Berry, Campaign for Better Transport’s sustainable transport campaigner, said: ‘When this ring road was first given Department for Transport funding in 2011, we said that it was already a pointless use of public funds, so we’re very disappointed to see nearly £10m in extra funding will be given to Norfolk County Council by the Department for Transport to help get this unnecessary road built, and that local transport funds that could be better spent by Norfolk County Council and New Anglia LEP will be wasted on this scheme.

‘This is especially galling when we warned at the time that road costs would escalate and be a further drain on public finances. Local and national government finances are being squeezed hard, and other transport budgets, including many vital local buses across the country, are being cut.’

Councillor Andrew Boswell, leader of the Green Party group at the council, described the local authority, LEP and Government as ‘spineless’ to accept a 20% rise in project costs rather than seeking to renegotiate the contract.

‘This is at the same time as up to £189m of budget savings need to be found in the next three years and when every penny in Norfolk provides vital services our social service departments and the people they serve cannot take any further unnecessary cuts,’ he said.

But Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP, said: ‘This road will deliver more than £1bn in economic benefit for Norwich and the wider economy. It is critical in delivering thousands of jobs, new homes and driving the economic growth we need across our region. We have been talking to the Government and Norfolk County Council to see how we can support the additional funding needed to make sure it happens.

'As a result I will be asking our full board to commit £10m from the LEP’s future Growth Deal funding, when we next meet in early September.’

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