A11 decision delayed until after election

THE full dualling of the A11 has become an early election issue for the region after it emerged that a decision on the vital road scheme will not be made until after May 6.

Ministers were urged to push the project forward on January 29 when a public inquiry into the upgrade of the road between Thetford and Barton Mills came to an end.

But campaigners spoke of their frustration after having to wait until the outcome of the General Election - called by Gordon Brown on Tuesday - for a decision on the multi-million pound project.

Leading politicians and business leaders had hoped that the nine-mile road widening scheme could be rubber-stamped before the race for 10 Downing Street began.

Now the final leg of the A11 upgrade could be overseen by a different minister after Transport Secretary Lord Adonis ran out of time to back the project. The secretary of state has yet to receive the report of planning inspector Neil Taylor, who oversaw the A11 public inquiry, which came to a close nine weeks ago.

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The inspector’s findings are due to be sent to the government later this month, but not in time to be passed before parliament is officially dissolved on Monday.

The project, which would cost between �106m and �147m, is estimated to be worth almost �600m to the local economy and would improve safety, capacity, and journey times along the A11, as well as improving the quality of life for people living in Elveden.

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A fully dualled road between Norwich and London was first raised by Edward Heath’s Conservative government almost 40 years ago and is scheduled for an autumn 2010 start date, if approved by whoever is transport secretary after the election.

Matthew Hancock, Conservative parliamentary candidate for West Suffolk, added: “It [the A11] is important for west Suffolk and for the rest of East Anglia too. The current government has left the nation’s finances in a terrible state, but I will be making the case for it.”

The A11 dualling scheme has been the victim of Whitehall spending reviews over the years. Campaigners are hoping that the A11 is immune to potential public sector cuts following the general election.

Daniel Cox, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “The case for dualling the A11 has been accepted by the major parties and we will not rest until the scheme gets the final go ahead.”

Five individuals and the Elveden Estate had opposed the A11 dualling at the public inquiry over the lack of a junc-tion linking the B1112 and the impact on the Fiveways roundabout at Barton Mills.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The A11 is an important scheme for the east of England and for the country as whole. “The department always considers planning inspectors’ reports in detail and this one will be no exception. At present we cannot speculate about how long this process will take.”

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