The Artful Codger, November 6, 2014

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Not long now to wait for the autumn statement from Chancellor George Osborne, when we shall find out if the Government is putting its money where its mouth is in regard to funding much-needed improvements to the A47.

The day we in Norfolk are all waiting for is December 3 – coincidentally my birthday – when we will find out if all the hints, all the visits to the area by ministers in the past year, really amount to much more than a load of hot air.

We can but hope that we will finally be hearing something positive, and just not more concerns and promises, especially with a General Election soon.

Perhaps we might be lucky this time, as events over the past year or two may have conspired to tip the situation in our favour, notably the rise of UKIP.

Until recently, the sleepy depths of Norfolk were pretty much Tory heartland, and of little concern to Conservative Head Office. But UKIP has changed all that in double quick time, and it is noticeable that ministers are suddenly listening to the locals and nodding sagely at their problems. Dare we hope that we are finally of electoral importance in Norfolk? Will the Chancellor be saying the magic words on December 3 that will keep us all happy and remaining (at least from the Government’s point of view) in the Tory fold?

Let us hope so, although even if chunks of money are forthcoming for work on the A47, the devil may be in the detail.

For one of the problems with the A47 is that there is an awful lot of the road that needs bringing up to dual carriageway standard, and we might be the bit that misses out once again.

We are all familiar with the scenario in Norfolk where the east of the county, around Norwich, regularly does rather better than the west when there are dollops of money being lobbed around, and there is a danger that the loud cries from the other side of the county could yet again drown out our pleas in the west.

Given the dire economic condition of Yarmouth, it could be that the Acle Straight leading out of the decaying resort might be seen as a major priority for improvement. I must confess that it is one of the worst stretches of road in the county that I have had the misfortune to drive on.

Now as much as this work is urgently needed, it does not really help us in the west, where the stretches of the A47 from Thorney to Wisbech, plus the situation at Middleton just outside Lynn where a bypass is urgently needed, are crucial to making a difference to our economy.

Improving the Acle Straight would allow Yarmouth to link into the national dual carriageway network via the A11 at Norwich, and, if anything, would weaken the argument for dualling the remaining stretches of single carriageway between Norwich and Peterborough.

In these circumstances, our elected representatives need to keep stressing the more immediate benefits of improvements rolling out eastwards from Peterborough. Anyway, let’s keep our fingers crossed for good news on December 3.