Are Norfolk's A47 expansion plans illegal?

The A47 between Swaffham and Toftwood has been shut in both directions. 

The A47 between Swaffham and Dereham has been shut in both directions. - Credit: Google

Road works on the A47 are “needed to improve safety” a councillor has said, but questions have been raised about their legality. 

Four sections of the A47 across Norfolk are currently planned for upgrades as part of a £27bn government maintenance and expansion plan for England’s road network.  
These are: 

  • A47 North Tuddenham to Easton  
  • A47 Blofield to North Burlingham 
  • A47 Thickthorn Junction  
  • A47 Great Yarmouth Junctions 

A legal challenge by the Transport Action Network has sought a judicial review of the national plans, including the Norfolk roads, casting doubt on the project. 

Recent reports by the Guardian said the government may have ignored their climate change laws while deciding on the plans and transport secretary Grant Shapps overrode official advice to review the policy on environmental grounds

Transport secretary Grant Shapps. Pic: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

Transport secretary Grant Shapps. Pic: Hannah McKay/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Norfolk County Councillor, Martin Wilby, chairman of the A47 Alliance said the scheme is important for Norfolk and should go ahead. 

He said: “It’s clear that the long-awaited A47 dualling and junction improvements are needed to improve safety and tackle the awful congestion suffered by residents and businesses on a daily basis. 

“These widely supported schemes are important for Norfolk in terms of improving our connections to the rest of the UK, supporting our economy and making crucial journeys more reliable for residents."

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport. - Credit: Simon Parkin

A Department for Transport (DfT) spokeswoman said they were unable to say what the judicial review would mean for Norfolk’s roads. 

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She said: “The advice to the Transport Secretary set out that the criteria for a review of the National Planning Statement had not been fully met. 

“We are unable to comment further due to ongoing legal proceedings.” 

The DFT has said the road expansion scheme worked within government’s net-zero carbon target, which includes plans for decarbonisation of vehicles, public transport and active travel, and road improvements that utilise low-carbon construction techniques.  

Mr Wilby said the council has an ongoing dialogue with both Highways England and DfT on the improvements and they will want to discuss “what – if any – implications there might be for the Norfolk schemes.” 

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