Year-long gas mains work planned for Great Yarmouth town centre

A MAJOR scheme to replace gas mains in a clutch of streets at the heart of Great Yarmouth could swing a breaker's ball through the tourist industry.

National Grid announced this week its intention to upgrade 3.7km in 11 key streets including along the Golden Mile and busy Regent Road - the hub of the town's holiday trade, as well as historic South Quay which stages the popular Maritime Festival.

Charles Reynolds, deputy council leader, whose portfolio includes tourism said he was 'deeply concerned' at the potential for noise, dust and disruption and pledged to raise the issue as a matter of urgency at this week's cabinet meeting.

National Grid has arranged a public meeting on March 1 when it will outline traffic management measures and details of the phasing of the work which it aims to start before Easter.

Streets affected include Marine Parade, York Road, Regent Road, South Quay, Friar Lane, Middle Market Road, Howard Street South, King Street, Princes Road and Trafalgar Road.

National Grid say they plan to start the year-long scheme in early April and are working with the local highways authority to minimise the disruption to businesses and residents.

A spokesman said work was necessary to maintain safe and reliable gas supplies, adding: 'National Grid, in partnership with Morrison Utility Services, will be carrying out an essential gas mains replacement project to upgrade 3.7kms of gas mains in Great Yarmouth.

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'Work is due to start early April and is expected to take a year to complete. The existing iron mains will be replaced with new, hard-wearing plastic pipes that will last for more than 80 years if left undisturbed in the ground. The work will help to secure safe and reliable gas supplies for local people for decades to come.

'The work will be phased and we are working with the local highways authority to schedule the work so that we can minimise disruption to businesses and residents in the town. We are currently in discussions with the highways authority with regard to traffic management measures and we expect to have details available at the public meeting on March 1.'

Mr Reynolds said he would be pushing for early talks with the company about the phasing of the work and what was involved in terms of digging up the road and causing mess and mayhem in the peak summer months when the town's road network was already under pressure and the resort needed to do everything it could to look welcoming.

'It really depends on what their plans are and how they plan to do it,' Mr Reynolds said. 'The area we are talking about is the major tourist area. We need to have some good liaison to see what their plans are. Quite frankly what they have done recently could have been handled better, there was dust falling about everywhere. One would hope they would be in touch with the council to alleviate things. I can see it causing problems with parking and all sorts of things.'

Mick Castle whose Central and Northgate ward includes some of the streets was also concerned. 'It could have a big impact in a densely populated area,' he said. 'The positive thing is we are going to get some new kit, we just need to make sure it doesn't disrupt things too much.'

Alan Carr, head of tourism at the borough council said: 'It is essential work and they have got to do it at some point. But we are keen to encourage them to avoid the main busy periods. The weekend of the Maritime Festival is crucial to us and we would want it kept well away from there.'

People are invited to find out more about the scheme and ask the project team any questions at the special public meeting on March 1, at The Priory Centre, Priory Plain, starting at 7pm.