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Funding hope for Northern Distributor Road

The controversial Norwich northern distributor road scheme has been given a fighting chance to get government cash - after it was included on a list of transport projects in with a shout of securing a share of £600m.

Council bosses now face a battle to make the case for the 8.7 mile, £127m Norwich northern distributor road scheme as it goes head to head with 21 other projects for a slice of funding.

But given there was speculation the road - linking the A47 on the eastern side of the city to the Norwich International Airport - was set to ditched from the government funding programme altogether, council bosses were upbeat about the announcement yesterday that it was on the shortlist.

In February, the previous Labour government earmarked £67.5m to build a shortened version of the road, between the A47 at Postwick and the A140 at Norwich International Airport.

But earlier in the summer the new Conservative/Liberal Democrat government told the county council to scale back work on it because of possible cutbacks in future funding.

However, transport secretary Philip Hammond yesterday named the road as a project which could get a share of the £600m pot for local authority projects - if supporters can make the case for it.

He aid: “Promoters will be challenged by my department to consider the scope of the scheme, its cost, lower cost alternatives and their ability to contribute more locally.

“Those who can make the best case are the most likely to receive funding, which will be confirmed by the end of 2011.”

The Evening News understands that in value for money assessments already conducted by the transport department, the distributor road has scored highly compared with many of its rivals - although no decision will be made until the end of next year.

However, it remains unclear whether £21m which the previous government had earmarked for remodelling of the A47 at Postwick - a key element of the NDR scheme and one which is set to be the focus of a public enquiry - would be forthcoming.

Graham Plant, cabinet member for travel and transport at Norfolk County Council, said: “At first sight, this appears encouraging news for Norfolk in the wake of the positive announcement about the A11.

“Given that funding is clearly extremely tight at a national level it is pleasing to see that the government recognises that the NDR is worthy of very serious consideration for funding.

“However, we still await a crucial announcement on the Postwick Hub, which is a key element of the overall scheme.”

Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, said it was a shame a decision on the road had slipped back a year, but was pleased it remained on the agenda.

She said: “I remain a strong supporter of the NDR. Local businesses want and need it, as do people who just want to get around the north of our own city.
“I am very pleased to see it confirmed as a scheme which does represent good value for money.

“Having spoken in favour of it in Parliament, it is a shame to see the decision go another year off. However, it must be taken in context.

“I am sure that Norfolk and local businesses will rise to the challenge of showing that this road continues to be vital for jobs and our economy around the north of the city.”

But critics of the road said it would be a scandal for Norfolk County Council to pump money into the road at a time when jobs and services are set to be cut.

Denise Carlo. from the Norwich and Norfolk Transport Action Group, said it was high time the plug was pulled on the scheme.

She said: “The Department for Transport made delivery of sustainable transport improvements a condition for NDR programme entry.

“The NDR would absorb every penny for transport, with nothing left for buses, walking and cycling. For this reason alone, the government is unlikely to be sympathetic to a bid from Norfolk for a share of the £600m local roads pot.

“Norfolk County Council should abandon its NDR policy.”

• Do you want to see the NDR built? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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