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Inquiry may put back A11 dualling

PUBLISHED: 09:19 17 April 2009 | UPDATED: 21:31 07 July 2010

Hopes of an early start to dualling the missing link of the A11 received a setback yesterday after it emerged that a public inquiry had been called into the £127m scheme.

Hopes of an early start to dualling the missing link of the A11 received a setback yesterday after it emerged that a public inquiry had been called into the £127m scheme.

Local politicians and business leaders spoke of their joy last year after transport secretary Geoff Hoon brought forward the upgrade of the road between Thetford and Barton Mills to begin next year.

But the 40-year ambition to connect Norwich and London with a fully dualled road link could be delayed by five months or more after objectors prompted highways officials to begin planning inquiry procedures.

Community and business leaders last night called on the Highways Agency for reassurances after the government organisation published notices for a potential inquiry in the autumn.

Christopher Fraser, South West Norfolk MP, said he was “very disappointed” with the news.

“I am more than dismayed that we have got this far, only to find yet more hitches are being put in the way of progress. Any delay now by the government or its agencies will be seen as a setback for all those who want Norfolk to reach its full economic potential at the earliest opportunity,” he said.

The latest development means that work on the last single carriageway stretch of the A11 could start at the end of 2010, which is still 18 months ahead of the agency's previous schedule.

A Highways Agency spokesman said that the proposed start date had not been compromised because a public inquiry had been included in the timeline for the project.

“We are committed to improving this busy section of the A11. A public inquiry has been called because a number of objections to the scheme were received. However, we will continue to work to resolve the outstanding objections and it may not be necessary to hold the public inquiry if they can all be resolved,” she said.

The nine-mile dualling project, which would bypass Elveden, would provide a £600m boost to the local economy and increase capacity, improve safety, and make journeys on the A11 more reliable.

Daniel Cox, leader of Norfolk County Council, said:“I know the vast majority of people and businesses in Norfolk who campaigned successfully in their thousands to get the scheme funded and brought forward, want to see it built as speedily as possible.”

Rona Burt, chairman of Forest Heath District Council, who has campaigned for the A11 to be dualled for years, said she was “not surprised” that a public inquiry had been called and “a lot” of parish councils had objected because of the impact of the proposals on the Fiveways roundabout and Tuddenham junction.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of economic development partnership Shaping Norfolk's Future, added: “Obviously a public inquiry would be disappointing and would delay the process, but we are confident that the Highways Agency are doing everything in their power and pulling out all the stops to ensure that it is being built as quickly as possible.”

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