This post is for Norwich people; but if others wish to read it, let me try to explain it to them. Locals will already known only too well what I am talking about. This road should have been called the northern bypass, mirroring Norwich’s southern bypass which was built back in the 1980s. As such it would have inevitably destroy parts of the countryside, but it would not be hugely controversial. A northern bypass is not what it will be however; it will stop short of completion, in not crossing the river Wensum. More of this due course.
This road will cause traffic chaos where it comes to an end (and that just happens to be in the village where I live). Everybody coming into Norwich from Cromer, Holt, Reepham and Fakenham will be expected to take the “Northern Distributor Road” eastabouts, to reach the A47 and the A11 via the Southern Bypass. Will people really be happy to drive many miles around the city to reach the A47 at the Mattishall roundabout, which is not much more than a couple of miles away from where they started? Of course they won’t; they will take the short cut. The only way to ensure they do not do this would be to close the roads that currently connect these villages on either side of the river Wensum. This would be a severe restriction on the freedom of movement of the people who live in the villages.
These minor roads, which are a traffic nightmare even now, will become horrendous “Rat Runs”. Although we all think we can describe a rat run – a short cut used by cars from outside the area – the slang term has no meaning in law. A road is either a public right of way or it is not, and people will use a road if it is there. The council will try to stop people with signage;”No Access to Taverham” says the sign on the lane into Ringland, but of course there is, and people use it. They grind down the verges as they try to squeeze past each other. It would be nice to say ‘if you live within a mile of this road you may use it, and if you live further away you can’t’, but I don’t see how this is possible.
Why has this situation arisen? Because the Wensum Valley is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. When the Northern Distributor Road was first proposed it was indeed to be the Northern Bypass, but every route they chose across the river incommoded a few newts. Rather than disturb these harmless but scientifically interesting creatures they took the option of renaming the road, leaving out the word bypass. This simple and cheap alternative did not however change the realities of traffic management. Those in power who took the ridiculous decision of building 99% of a bypass must be well aware of traffic chaos this will cause. This will happen either through closing roads or in creating rat runs. A bridge across the Wensum will have to be built eventually; it is just that they hope that the cries of anguish of the locals will drown out the voices of the friends of the newt. I just hope that by then my environment will not have been totally ruined.
I need not point out what a feeble lack of leadership on the part of the County Council this demonstrates. I have already given you my thoughts on planning policy in general, and nothing about this episode does anything to improve my low opinion of planners. I think they suffer from a committee mentality; any sign of originality is snuffed out by conformity to the lowest common denominator. CLICK HERE to read my earlier piece on planning.