Petition keeps up A11 pressure

Officials were last night hoping that a lengthy public inquiry can be avoided into plans to dual the final stretch of the A11 between Norwich and London.

Officials were last night hoping that a lengthy public inquiry can be avoided into plans to dual the final stretch of the A11 between Norwich and London.

As we reported on Tuesday, transport secretary Geoff Hoon has confirmed the £127m scheme to upgrade the nine-mile stretch between Barton Mills and Thetford will be brought forward.

Work is due to start in Autumn 2010 and will give a massive boost to the region's economy.

But that timetable allows for a public inquiry if serious objections are raised - and if it can be avoided the road could be finished by Autumn 2012.

Officials were understandably reluctant to be over-optimistic about the possibility of an inquiry, but there are no obvious objections to the dualling.

And authorities backing the plans have also vowed to work with any opponents who emerge to sort out potential problems without having to resort to an inquiry

Most Read

Mike Jackson, director of planning and transportation at Norfolk County Council, said: “We are not aware of any significant groups at this stage who have indicated they will object to dualling the road. In fact, there appears to be a great deal of support for the idea, although clearly it's impossible for anyone to predict what will happen once the formal processes begin to move forward.”

A Highways Agency spokesman said: “The need for, and length of, any public inquiry is completely dependent on the number of objections received, which is something we cannot predict.”

The publication of draft orders is expected tomorrow.

Despite Mr Hoon's announcement that the work is going ahead, Norfolk County Council leader Daniel Cox and South West Norfolk MP Christopher Fraser handed in a 16,000 name petition which was collected to demand the government accelerates the programme.

The appointment to deliver the three boxes of signatures to the Department for Transport in London had been booked for several weeks and they decided to continue with it.

Mr Cox also handed in a letter thanking Mr Hoon for listening to the views of the people of Norfolk and Suffolk and promising that the county council will follow progress of the scheme closely in the coming months.

The campaign for a fully dualled A11 has been going on for about 40 years and Mr Cox praised the backing from across the region.

“It was really great getting the message of 16,000 people from literally across the world to Geoff Hoon to say how important this final missing link is.

“Obviously it was great news to the hear the announcement yesterday but there is still work to be done. We should not let up in closely monitoring the progress.”

Mr Cox said there was widespread support for the scheme - including from landowner Lord Iveagh of Elveden - and he added: “Fingers crossed that sufficient work has been carried out by the Highways Agency to prepare a smooth path and there do not appear to be any stumbling blocks.”

A study by the East of England Development Agency has concluded that dualling would deliver time savings to road users worth £557 million and wider economic benefits of £136 million.