Probe into multi-million pound overspend on the NDR is ruled out

PUBLISHED: 14:42 02 December 2019 | UPDATED: 14:42 02 December 2019

The NDR (Broadland Northway). Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The NDR (Broadland Northway). Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

An external auditor will not be brought in to investigate the way the budget for the Norwich Northern Distributor Road spiralled by £56.5m.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways and infrastructure. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYMartin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways and infrastructure. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

But the Conservative-controlled cabinet at Norfolk County Council agreed an independent body should look at the planning for the Great Yarmouth Third River Crossing and the NDR Western Link.

That is so lessons learned from the NDR situation can be applied to those projects.

The budget for the 12.5-mile NDR also known as the Broadland Northway, went up from the £148.5m estimated in 2013 to the current prediction of £205m.

Council bosses have admitted lessons need to be learned about the way the contract was awarded and managed and the council's scrutiny committee had asked cabinet to refer the road's overspend to an external auditor.

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However, the cabinet amended that recommendation, which means the NDR overspend will not be looked at by external auditors.

Instead, the cabinet agreed to ask specialists from Local Partnerships - owned by the government and the Local Government Association - to look into the terms of reference for the Third River Crossing and Western Link.

Officers had explained how NDR contractor Balfour Beatty had submitted more than 1,300 compensation events - requests for costs above and beyond that of the original contract.

Officers said those, along with issues with Network Rail, diverting utilities, redesigns and poor weather, had pushed up the price of the scheme.

The cabinet agreed there should be closer working with utilities companies and Network Rail over future schemes, but Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, said the road was working well and lessons were already being learned.

Mr Morphew said it was important a "robust body" looked at the issues so the right lessons were learned, but said: "What I don't want to do is come back in three or four years' time and say 'we thought we'd learned the lessons, but we hadn't."

Ed Maxfield, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: "We need to make sure lessons are learned from the NDR project and if the LGA can help us do that effectively then I welcome it, but people will be wary of anything that smacks of decisions being scrutinised by the Old Boys Club."

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