A47 Rat-Running Campaign and Taskforce

I have long campaigned for much needed improvements to Norfolk (and the East)’s infrastructure.

With the exciting growth of the nearby Norwich Research Park, A11 Tech Corridor and countless businesses (small, medium and large) in our area, I believe that the area between Dereham-Norwich-Wymondham, in particular, has the potential to become the “Norwich Research Triangle” – an area with a bright future based on lots of small start-up companies that creates exciting jobs and opportunities and spreads the prosperity further to the likes of Watton and other “left behind” towns which need a boost. Norfolk in general though has the chance to unlock its full economic potential.

That’s why I (along with my fellow parliamentary colleagues, local councils, community groups and the business community) have been so vocal about improving our region’s digital and transport networks. Good connectivity is key if we are to grasp this wonderful opportunity properly and ensure vibrant communities for ourselves and future generations to come.

We’ve already made some excellent achievements – the dualling of the A11 and the roll-out of superfast broadband to, now, just over 95% of Norfolk to name just two! However, a big part of this vision going forward is achieving full dualling of the A47, as well as securing the Norwich Western Link (to connect the NDR to the A47 west of Norwich).

While I am pleased that Highways England will finally be getting on with the £300 million A47 improvements between North Tuddenham and Easton that I helped to secure, and am delighted to see Norfolk County Council driving forward positive work on the campaign to deliver the Norwich Western Link, I share the profound local concerns that the delivery of these projects could lead to a surge in rat-running through many of the communities between the proposed Berry’s Lane/Wood Lane junction at Honingham and Wymondham/even further afield (including the likes of Honingham, East Tuddenham, Barnham Broom, Kimberley, Carleton Forehoe, Coston, Welborne, Brandon Parva, Runhall, Wicklewood and Wymondham).

Although these infrastructure improvements will represent massive progress for our area, it is vital that we ensure that a proper strategic plan is put in place to prevent these likely rat-running problems. We cannot sacrifice some of our most picturesque villages to ever more congestion, as well as greater levels of pollution and environmental damage, simply because we have not thought to look at the likely challenges ahead. It’s the quality of life, beautiful landscape and community spirit that makes Norfolk so special!

Back in October 2019, at the request of a number of local Parish Councils, I attended a public meeting at St Peter’s Church in Kimberley to hear in greater detail their concerns about this potential increase in rat-running through our rural communities. It was decided that a local Taskforce would be created to co-ordinate the villages affected and work with local councillors, county and district officers, Highways England (now National Highways) officials, the A47 Alliance and countryside groups to oversee the development of a proper Plan around the works – aimed at mitigating any likely rat-running and minimising the impact on local communities.

I was thrilled that, at a meeting in 2020, the Taskforce received confirmation from Norfolk County Council that they were looking to expand their traffic survey work in Mid Norfolk – to better understand the possible traffic impacts both during and after the construction works for both projects. 

Since that meeting in 2020, National Highways have carried out several rounds of public consultation for the North Tuddenham-Easton project, analysing the findings and ensuring they informed the next stages of the process. The local Taskforce encouraged local residents and communities to submit their views both to that consultation and directly to themselves as the Taskforce – then used the feedback obtained to make a formal submission to National Highways on how they would like to see the plans, including the new Wood Lane/Berry’s Lane junction, designed.

At various stages, National Highways have shared how their public consultations has been going – highlighting certain alterations that they intended to make to their plans in response to local feedback. 

I welcomed a subsequent commitment by National Highways and Norfolk County Council Highways to develop a proper plan for community engagement – one that would allow them to ensure the views of local people form the basis of the mitigation measures that will be required, and add to the consultation work that will hopefully allow them to get their plans, especially those for the Wood Lane/Berry’s Lane junction, correct. I was delighted to follow the progress of that community engagement plan closely, providing support where necessary and helping to convene additional key stakeholders where required.

My team and I have supported the Taskforce, National Highways and Norfolk County Council Highways throughout the process of engaging with local parishes to build a comprehensive picture of the traffic problems they are facing now and how they fear they may get worse in due course – and once the North Tuddenham-Easton stretch and the Norwich Western Link have been built. Once that picture was formed, Norfolk County Council Highways actively worked with those parishes to assess which traffic mitigation methods may be required for the entire area to limit any potential negative impacts that these hugely beneficial infrastructure projects for our region may cause for this localised area. When done, those proposals were included in the next round of public consultation with the hope that they would be broadly accepted and able to move forwards as the works approach.

More work lies ahead, but I am firmly commitment to providing my ongoing support to the local communities concerned on this issue.

If you have any points you would like to raise, please do send them to me directly and to the A47 Taskforce group at A47taskforce@outlook.com.

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