Progress is at a cost

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Further proof (if any was needed) that transport infrastructure improvements in Norfolk are proceeding at a snail’s pace comes with news of a potential setback to plans to upgrade the Acle Straight, on the A47 out of Great Yarmouth towards Norwich.

It seems that the marshes over which the road travels are one of the few habitats 
of a rare, extremely tiny, snail, and unless a new 
home can be found for the minute mollusc, it could jeopardise future work on the road.

A potential new home for the snails has been found, and some of them will be moved there to see if they prosper. If they do, then the rest of them can be moved and the Acle Straight can perhaps be straightened out, so to speak, and perhaps become less of an accident blackspot.

However, it will take two years to test if the potential new home for the snails is a healthy environment for them, so that’s another two years (at least) before any plans to upgrade the road can go ahead.

My immediate reaction to the situation was that there might be an opportunity here to get something done about the A47 on the western side of the county, if delays are looming on the eastern side.

Perhaps the Middleton bypass plans, kicked into the long grass until heaven knows when, might edge nearer the front of the lengthy queue for A47 upgrades. After all, it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow someone a bit of good.

Then I had a further uncomfortable thought. When the time comes to make detailed studies of a potential route for the Middleton bypass, will they find some rare creature or plant that causes even further delays? Oh nooo – let’s hope not.

After all, north and west Norfolk is rich in rare flora and fauna, and it was not so long ago, in the 1980s, when the plans for the Dersingham and Snettisham bypass were threatened by the discovery of some rare creature or plant – it’s so far back that it eludes my ageing memory.

Fortunately the situation was resolved and the bypass went ahead, much to the relief of residents in Dersingham, Ingoldisthorpe and Snettisham, who for years had endured the misery of every summer weekend being blighted by a tailback of coastal holiday traffic on the main road through the centre of their villages.

Clearly, the need to preserve rare species is more critical than ever in the modern age when whole species risk being wiped out by the advance of civilisation (a strange term in this context, as it is seldom civil at all). There is an obvious balance that needs preserving, but very few answers that are going to satisfy everyone.

Indeed, the whole question of road improvements begs many questions. Progress comes at a cost – it is easy to lose as much as you gain.