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End the Queen’s Hills gridlock - Evening News launches campaign for second exit at Costessey housing estate

PUBLISHED: 07:46 08 June 2015 | UPDATED: 15:53 08 June 2015

The entrance to Queen's Hills.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The entrance to Queen's Hills. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2015

Calls are being made to finally end the fiasco which regularly sees one of Norfolk’s biggest housing estates freeze into traffic gridlock.

Traffic queues after a crash blocks the road near Queens Hills, Costessey.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYTraffic queues after a crash blocks the road near Queens Hills, Costessey. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The Evening News is today launching a campaign to resolve the long-running problems at Queen’s Hills in Costessey, which has just one way in and out.

The development, which has almost 1,900 homes and an estimated 4,300 people, can only be accessed by Sir Alfred Munnings Road which often means residents face queues as long as an hour and a half to travel just one mile.

Some people have found the situation to be so bad that they are considering moving, while one woman who is six-and-a-half months pregnant is fearful of what will happen she goes into labour.

It means that at peak times, it can take more than an hour to leave the estate. Even minor accidents in the area can bring further chaos.

Queen's Hills residents Maria and Chris Hilton with their children Lucas, 5, and Chloe, 2.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYQueen's Hills residents Maria and Chris Hilton with their children Lucas, 5, and Chloe, 2. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Just last week a crash on Sir Alfred Munnings Road caused 80-minute delays. And there are fears that, rather than the situation improve, it could get worse, with more shops and houses planned for the wider area.

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon is backing the campaign and has written to Norfolk County Council demanding a solution is found soon.

He wrote: “No matter how the current situation in Queen’s Hills was reached, it is plainly untenable and I am concerned that the likely delay between first identifying a solution and then funding to implement it is likely to stretch into years, possibly even decades.

“Although a strong community spirit is being forged in the face of this adversity, I am concerned that this will be too late to prevent many residents moving off the development in large numbers.

“There is a great deal of potential there but residents have been constantly let down and their forbearance cannot last forever.”

Permission was given to build 1,360 homes on the estate, behind Sainsbury’s, in 2003 with the understanding there would be two access points.

But after objections over an exit onto Ringland Lane, a planning inspector decided that Sir Alfred Munnings Road would be enough for general traffic, opting for the second route to be used by buses and emergency vehicles only.

Yet more than a decade on, and Ringland Lane is still not open.

Norfolk County Council last year carried out a feasibility study to consider possible measures and strategies for addressing the issues.

A spokesman said: “To tackle both current and future congestion issues in the area we have already begun putting a number of measures in place.

“The council is aware of Queen’s Hills residents’ concerns about the single point of access to the estate, and we will be responding to Richard Bacon’s letter to that regard shortly.”

Analysis: Tim East

County councillor and chairman of Costessey Town Council, Tim East, pictured, has fought for a second exit.

He said: “Over the last 13 years, the historic reasons for only having one exit have been explained many times to the residents, but the explanation doesn’t so far offer any hope for a solution to the capacity problems, traffic gridlock, congestion and tailbacks they experience on a daily basis.

“It’s of no consolation, but I did tell County Hall before the first brick was laid, as did South Norfolk planners and Costessey Town Council, that the original two-exit development brief was essential, but it was overturned by an inspector when Norfolk County Council, Broadland District Council, Norwich City Council and Taverham Parish Council all objected to an exit from the estate towards the Fakenham Road via Ringland Lane.

“The solution for this seemingly intractable and never-ending saga is for another exit onto an entirely different stretch of road to ease the congestion, not add to it. Hence, my suggestion of a road from the Queen’s Hills estate towards the west, which links with the roundabout at Easton, or perhaps a link to the north by opening up the emergency vehicle and bus lane to all traffic with appropriate traffic measures and road improvements to join up with the NDR on the Fakenham Road.

“These suggestions which have been in the pipeline for years need to be taken more seriously, so that Queen’s Hills residents have the certainty of relief from the constant traffic mayhem in the area and some hope of a resolution to these problems in the near future.”

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