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‘A bad decision’ - MPs to call for review of Acle Straight dualling delay

PUBLISHED: 06:47 18 September 2020 | UPDATED: 12:07 20 September 2020

Clive Lewis and Brandon Lewis. Pictures: Archant

Clive Lewis and Brandon Lewis. Pictures: Archant

Archant

The region’s MPs have reacted to the “disappointing” news that the Acle Straight will not be dualled for another decade, with some calling for a review and the break-up of the highways agency.

Mid Norfolk Conservative MP George Freeman. Picture: ArchantMid Norfolk Conservative MP George Freeman. Picture: Archant

The region’s MPs have reacted to the “disappointing” news that the Acle Straight will not be dualled for another decade, with some calling for a review and the break-up of the highways agency.

The road between Acle and Great Yarmouth has not been included in the government’s road investment strategy for 2020/25.

Campaigners and councillors have warned the next chance to push for the scheme will be 2030, as people living in the coastal town stress safety fears.

It comes just 10 months after the prime minister pledged he would deliver the vital road project in the wake of several former governments’ broken promises, to end the misery of drivers facing accidents and delays on the single carriageway route.

Norwich South Labour MP Clive Lewis (L) and North Norfolk Conservative MP Duncan Baker (R). Photos: ArchantNorwich South Labour MP Clive Lewis (L) and North Norfolk Conservative MP Duncan Baker (R). Photos: Archant

And now Norfolk and Waveney’s MPs have spoken out about the Highways England (HE) decision.

Brandon Lewis, Conservative MP for Great Yarmouth, said: “I have consistently championed the dualling of the Acle Straight, and will continue to do so.

“The previous decision by the Labour government to downgrade the status of the road significantly set back these necessary improvements.

“This project is part of a wider infrastructure puzzle, which includes improving the internal traffic flow within the town and borough of Great Yarmouth - which is why the millions of pounds allocated by this government to improve the A47 roundabouts and build the Third River crossing is so important.”

Liz Truss, Conservative MP for South West Norfolk, said she wants to see full dualling of the A47. Photo: ArchantLiz Truss, Conservative MP for South West Norfolk, said she wants to see full dualling of the A47. Photo: Archant

He added: “I am concerned by the timeline suggested by HE and will be contacting the Department of Transport (DfT) and HE to seek clarification and re-state the importance of this route.”

George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk, said: “This is a very bad decision by HE which will seriously undermine the regeneration of Yarmouth and Lowestoft and hold back Norfolk and East Anglia’s post-Covid-19 recovery.

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“After 10 years of county lobbying for the A47, I think it’s time to make HE more accountable to our region.

Clockwise from top left, James Wild MP, Brandon Lewis MP, Duncan Baker MP and Chloe Smith MP. Picture: ArchantClockwise from top left, James Wild MP, Brandon Lewis MP, Duncan Baker MP and Chloe Smith MP. Picture: Archant

“Let’s break it up and create an accountable Highways East.”

When the decision was announced, Peter Havlicek, Highways England programme lead for the A47, said the body was aware there had been a “tremendous amount of lobbying” for the changes.

Jerome Mayhew, the Conservative MP for Broadland, said: “I am so frustrated by the approach that the highways agency has taken to dualling the Acle Straight. I have lobbied for its inclusion with the investment scheme, highlighting the repeated fatal accidents that occur, so it is particularly disappointing that the importance of the scheme has not been recognised.

“Constituents of mine have been killed using this stretch of the road because its current layout is dangerous, encouraging frustrated drivers to overtake when it is not safe to do so.

South Norfolk Conservative MP Richard Bacon. Picture: Danielle BoodenSouth Norfolk Conservative MP Richard Bacon. Picture: Danielle Booden

“I will keep on pushing but one challenge that we face is that the highways agency is a quango, with very little political oversight.

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“There is an increasing argument for responsibility for highways to be held by the county council, which knows the real importance of local needs.”

Duncan Baker, North Norfolk Conservative MP, said: “Like other Norfolk MPs, I have lobbied for this vital infrastructure upgrade to finally start since being elected.

James Wild, Duncan Baker and Jerome Mayhew are the Conservative MPs for North West Norfolk, North Norfolk and Broadland respectively. Picture: ArchantJames Wild, Duncan Baker and Jerome Mayhew are the Conservative MPs for North West Norfolk, North Norfolk and Broadland respectively. Picture: Archant

READ MORE: ‘Completely stupid’ - Great Yarmouth residents’ anger at ten-year delay to Acle Straight dualling

“It is a dangerous stretch of road and has been for years, absolutely requiring dualling on safety grounds. Dualled, it will have significant benefits for Norfolk and its coastline.

“I will be raising this further and supporting my colleagues by asking for a review of the decision by the DfT and HE.”

And Liz Truss, Conservative MP for South West Norfolk, said: “I want to see full dualling of the A47 and will continue to work with colleagues to secure this.”

Peter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney, urged ministers to extend the benefit deductions freeze. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodPeter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney, urged ministers to extend the benefit deductions freeze. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

READ MORE: Boris Johnson: ‘I’ll get A47 dualled’

However, Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, said: “People are angry at being let down and I understand there will be a lot of people disappointed.

“A commitment has been made and people have been consistently let down by government over this and are unhappy about that.

“In these times with Covid-19, people are more reliant on cars and are having to use the Acle Straight which is dangerous.”

A47 Acle Straight
Byline: Sonya Duncan
(C) Archant 2020A47 Acle Straight Byline: Sonya Duncan (C) Archant 2020

And he added: “On the other hand, I want to see more sustainable public transport and carbon emission reduction - that is the future. Norfolk has the opportunity to jump ahead of other areas of the country which have had road building programmes into a 21st century transport system, which means people don’t have to use cars.”

READ MORE: Anger as A47 Acle Straight dualling ruled out for at least a decade

Chloe Smith, Norwich North Conservative MP, added: “This is disappointing. The campaign has to go on, and ever stronger, because we need this in Norfolk.”

Peter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney, said: “An upgraded A47 is important to the Waveney and Lowestoft economy and it is vital that those improvement schemes for which funding has already been provided are built as quickly as possible.

READ MORE: Acle Straight: The key issues around the calls for the road to be dualled

“At the same time a strong and compelling case should be presented to government for a dualled Acle Straight, construction of which should follow immediately after these projects have been completed.

“I’ll work with Norfolk colleagues and representatives to help achieve this.”

Richard Bacon, South Norfolk MP, and James Wild, North West Norfolk MP, did not respond to requests for comment.

READ MORE: MP warns of backlash if A47 is one of 16 roads schemes under review


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