The Broadland Northway

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Text © Copyright Evelyn Simak, July 2016
Images are under a separate Creative Commons Licence.


TG2909 : Sign advertising the Northern Distributor Road by Evelyn Simak

In 2005 the Norfolk County Council persuaded the East of England regional assembly to add a new road to the Regional Spatial Strategy as a late inclusion, with the aim to improve access to the airport and development to the north of the city. Initially, it was to be called the Northern Bypass, similar to the already existing Southern Bypass constructed in the 1980s. The plan was to construct a predominantly dual carriageway road from the A47, to the west of Norwich, passing to the north of the city, and re-connecting with the A47 to the east near Postwick. The route has however since been revised and now runs from the A47 at Postwick, east of Norwich, to the A1067 (Fakenham Road) north-west of Taverham. The new road has been assigned the number A1270.

TG1415 : View north-west along the new Fakenham Road by Evelyn Simak TG1415 : New carriageway under construction by Evelyn Simak TG1415 : Road under construction by Evelyn Simak TG1415 : New road meets old road by Evelyn Simak TG1415 : Traffic cones beside the Fakenham Road (A1067) by Evelyn Simak

The new road, next referred to as the Northern Distributor Road - in March 2018 it was finally renamed the Broadland Northway - is said to reduce congestion on strategic routes to the north of the city; reduce noise, air pollution and accidents for communities in the northern suburbs of Norwich and outlying villages; enable the removal of through traffic from the city centre, and implementation of widespread pedestrianisation/bus priority measures; and to provide direct access to growth locations, helping to deliver significant housing and employment growth. The construction includes the building of 12 new roundabouts and 8 new bridges and will claim 630 acres of farmland, 25 acres of woodland and part of the grounds to a number of homes and businesses, including at the City of Norwich Aviation Museum. In August 2009, the longer route was expected to cost 117m. In 2016, the cost for the revised (shortened) route was estimated to amount to 178m.

In June 2006, the report from the examination of the East of England Spatial Strategy recommended that the road should be dropped, citing a lack of consultation, and in September 2007, the government intervened to block Norfolk Council's proposal to award any contract to build the road without going through a competitive tendering process. FRA revenue was allocated to the road in February 2009 despite the Department of Transport having voiced concern in the light of the prevailing fiscal uncertainty and suggested that the council submit an alternative layout for an associated project, the Postwick Hub. The 27 million Postwick Hub, at the start of the new road and located in the district of Broadland, includes the development of the A47/A1042 road junction and also a further 500 parking places at the Postwick park and ride site. In June 2009, the scheme was finally given the go-ahead from the government.

Every one of the proposed routes across the River Wensum would however have traversed not only a habitat populated by protected newts but also the Wensum Valley, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and it would furthermore have required the construction of a bridge over the River Wensum, which was deemed too costly. For this reason the traffic planners, after prolonged deliberations, then decided that the NDR would not be crossing the river after all and would therefore not re-connect with the A47, as had been planned originally. Subsequently, the word 'bypass' was dropped, and the road was renamed the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR). Many people however refer to it as the road to nowhere. Drivers heading towards Norwich from Cromer, Holt, Reepham or Fakenham are expected to follow the NDR eastwards in order to connect with the A47 or the A11 via the Southern Bypass, thus diverting many miles around the city of Norwich to the Mattishall roundabout (A47), which as a matter of fact is only a couple of miles distant from where they started off on their journey. Nevertheless, the Council together with all its experts and planners are convinced that everything will work as planned.

Preliminary work started in December 2015 and included the installation of 7 kilometres of green plastic amphibian fencing to contain the rare and protected great crested newts inhabiting some of the affected areas. Buckets containing food were sunk into the earth at regular intervals all along the barriers and checked daily by ecologists. Any newts having fallen into these live traps were then relocated to new habitats, with Natural England overseeing the safe removal. By mid-June 2016, more than 340 great crested newts were reported to have been relocated together with 450 smooth newts, about 850 toads, 90 frogs and an assortment of reptiles and small mammals. Even a sniffer dog, trained to sniff out newts, apparently, had been brought in to assist. More than 100 bird boxes, 10 barn owl boxes and over 81 bat boxes have also been put up in surrounding woodlands.

TG2712 : The route of the Northern Distributor Road by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Reptile fencing by Evelyn Simak TG2314 : Newt fencing by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Newman Road past Heath Wood by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Stacks of newt buckets by Evelyn Simak

Two so-called bat hotels, one near Gazebo Farm and the other near where Hall Farm used to be located, have also been constructed. At the time of writing (July 2016) these would however seem to be actively avoided by bats. Furthermore, there is a plan to build seven bat gantries, supposedly designed to help bats cross roads, along the route of the NDR, together with two "dark corridor" bridges (on the Marriott's Way long distance footpath and on Middle Road), as well as a bat underpass.

Bat gantries use a V-shaped array of wire mesh strung high over the carriageway between two poles and are intended to replicate hedgerows and trees to guide flying bats safely over roads. A study of bat bridges built on the newly constructed stretch of the A11 (Elveden bypass) has however concluded in 2015 that they would not seem to be effective. Defra has also stated that bat bridges do not work. A study conducted by Professor Anna Berthinussen and John Altringham (University of Leeds) in 2012 demonstrated that bat gantries in northern England have been ineffective, as even nine years after construction their presence did not effectively increase the height at which bats crossed the road. The authors concluded that wire gantries should not be used > LinkExternal link. The Bat Conservation Trust too advises caution in the use and siting of bat gantries. But local planners of course always know better, especially when having a vested interest.

TG2712 : Hall Farm bat house by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Bat roost barn by Evelyn Simak

Environmentalists have warned that more than 6,000 trees will be destroyed by the proposed road and that large swathes of productive farmland will be permanently taken out of production. According to information issued by the Norfolk County Council, the loss of habitat from the road includes about 5.3ha of semi-natural woodland, 4.4km of species-rich hedgerow and 9.7km of lower quality hedges. One county wildlife site - Ortolan's Grove, a short distance north of Round Hills - is directly affected by the road construction and a breeding pond and the surrounding habitat for great crested newts has also been destroyed. The Norfolk County Council states that more than five trees of various sizes will be planted for every tree felled, and that along with shrubs and new hedges the total area will add up to 61.2ha of broadleaved woodland. Fact is that many habitats for bats, badgers, newts and many other species of animals and plants have been permanently destroyed and that nobody would seem to have thought about how many specimens of the affected species will actually manage to survive their abrupt displacement and the upheaval caused by the destruction of their habitats to begin with, not to mention that it will take years for the newly planted trees to grow into woodlands. Furthermore, the road development causes significant local air, water and noise pollution.

TG1815 : The Northern Distributor Road east of Drewray Wood by Evelyn Simak TG2614 : View along the course of the Northern Distributor Road by Evelyn Simak TG2812 : The route of the Northern Distributor Road by Evelyn Simak TG2314 : Poppy meadow by Quaker Farm by Evelyn Simak TG2414 : A ruined crop by Evelyn Simak TG1815 : Digger parked on the Northern Distributor Road by Evelyn Simak TG1914 : A huge heap of sand by Evelyn Simak

Nevertheless, the NDR was given the go-ahead on 2 June 2015, with the road initially scheduled to be completed by 2017 but, according to a revised timeline, completion was then expected to take until early 2018. At the time of writing (July 2016), the cost for the sections between the Postwick Hub and the A140 (Cromer Road) is currently given as amounting to 133.59. Despite proposals to stop the road at the A140/B1159 Holt Road junction, the already cash-strapped NCC has not wavered from their decision to take the route further west to Fakenham Road (A1067), between Taverham and Attlebridge, thus adding another 44.86m.

The main contract for the scheme was awarded to Balfour Beatty but two months later, in August 2015, it emerged that the cost of the road had soared from 148.5m to 178.5m, due to Balfour Beatty hiking their contract by 30m without negotiations having taken place, as the powers that be at Norfolk County Council(NCC) apparently bypassed proper committee scrutiny.

TG2909 : Information boards for the workers by Evelyn Simak

The route is divided into seven sections, with different stages of constructions commencing at different times across the length of the route, apparently in an attempt to speed up construction time.


Section 1 -Fakenham Road (A1067) to Holt Road (B1149)

Starting at the new Fakenham Road roundabout, the NDR runs in a north-easterly direction, passing between Deighton Hills and Walsingham Plantation, before it crosses Fir Covert Road and, a short distance further along, the Marriott's Way long distance footpath and Furze Lane, before reaching Reepham Road further to the north-east. A bat gantry was constructed just east of the roundabout and badger fencing put up in the vicinity on both sides of the road. The course of the access road to Deighton Hills was realigned to turn off the Fakenham Road roundabout.

Surfacing the section between Fakenham Road and Reepham Road commenced in September 2016, with the construction completed by September 2017. The Fakenham Road, the Fir Covert (C262) and the Reepham Road (C261) roundabouts were completed in November 2016.

TG1415 : The route of the Northern Distributor Road by Evelyn Simak TG1415 : The Northern Distributor Road (NDR) by Crooked Oaks by Evelyn Simak TG1415 : Plastic pipes ready for use by Evelyn Simak TG1415 : Road construction south of Deighton Hills by Evelyn Simak TG1515 : Drainage pipes ready for use by Evelyn Simak

A 500 metres long section of the 900-millimetre steel pipeline, one of the key feeder lines transporting North Sea gas from Bacton all over the country, was diverted to prevent gas services to millions of homes being disrupted while a new section was installed. The pipeline crosses the route of the NDR near its western end, between Fir Covert Road and the A1067 Fakenham Road. As it had been designed for operation in open countryside an upgrade to a thicker gauge was however required before the road could go over the top. According to project managers for the NDR, this work was completed ahead of schedule and on budget at the end of August 2016. (Eastern Daily Press article, 29 August 2016) The new section of Fakenham Road as well as the roundabout where the NDR merges were in the process of being surfaced in August 2016.

TG1415 : A new section of road by Evelyn Simak TG1415 : View along the new section of Fakenham Road (A1067) by Evelyn Simak TG1415 : Past Juniper Valley by Evelyn Simak TG1415 : Up to Attlebridge Hills by Evelyn Simak TG1415 : New road meets old road by Evelyn Simak TG1415 : South towards the roundabout by Evelyn Simak

TG1415 : Where the NDR meets Fakenham Road by Evelyn Simak TG1415 : A new roundabout by Evelyn Simak  A1067/NDR roundabout

The Fir Covert roundabout was opened to traffic travelling on Fir Covert Road in December 2016 whilst construction work of the NDR, which crosses it, was still ongoing.

TG1515 : Road construction north of Taverham by Evelyn Simak TG1515 : Security fence beside Fir Covert Road by Evelyn Simak TG1515 : View across Fir Covert Road by Evelyn Simak

TG1515 : View along the NDR from Fir Covert roundabout by Evelyn Simak TG1515 : New roundabout on Fir Covert Road by Evelyn Simak TG1515 : Cyclist on Fir Covert roundabout by Evelyn Simak TG1515 : Fir Covert Road roundabout by Evelyn Simak TG1515 : Traffic cones on Fir Covert roundabout by Evelyn Simak TG1515 : View across the new roundabout on Fir Covert Road by Evelyn Simak TG1515 : Speed restriction sign on Fir Covert roundabout by Evelyn Simak

Construction work for a pedestrian bridge over the Marriott's Way long distance footpath started in July 2016, with the bridge completed in April 2017. Path users, including horse riders, will be shielded from the traffic on the dual carriageway below by parapets, fencing and hedgerows. The bridge is described as a green bridge because it takes the hedgerows over the road in order to maintain it as an important foraging route for bats. Furze Lane and Breck Farm Lane are cut off/closed.

TG1615 : Bridge construction on the Northern Distributor Road by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : Pedestrian bridge under construction by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : View north-east along the Northern Distributor Road by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : Building the Northern Distributor Road by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : Furze Lane is now closed by Evelyn Simak

The foundations for the green bridge taking the Marriott's Way over the NDR were in place by December 2016.

TG1615 : The NDR towards Fir Covert roundabout by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : NDR construction work by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : View across the NDR by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : The NRD approaching the Reepham Road roundabout by Evelyn Simak

The beams for this bridge had also been installed by March 2017. Until completion, the long distance footpath was diverted to circumvent the construction site and crossed the road under construction just to the south of it instead.

TG1615 : Construction of a "green bridge" by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : "Green bridge" on the Marriott's Way under construction by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : The "green bridge" over the Marriott's Way by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : Diversion on the Marriott's Way long distance footpath by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : Footpath diversion across the Northern Distributor Road by Evelyn Simak

TG1615 : The Northern Distributor Road under construction by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : "Green" bridge over the Northern Distributor Road by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : Working on the "green" bridge by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : The "green" bridge under construction by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : "Green" bridge under construction by Evelyn Simak

TG1615 : The Marriott's Way overbridge by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : The NDR between Reepham Road and Fir Covert Road roundabouts by Evelyn Simak


Section 2 Reepham Road (C261) to Holt Road (B1149)

From the new roundabout on Reepham Road, south of Drayton Drewray, the NDR heads south-easterly, passing south of Drayton Wood and south of Bell, Old Manor and Chestnut farms, on an almost parallel course with Reepham Road but a short distance further north of it, until it reaches the Holt/Cromer road junction south-west of Norwich International Airport. Badger fencing was installed along part of this section.

The Reepham Road roundabout was opened to traffic travelling on Reepham Road in December 2016 whilst construction work on the NDR was still ongoing.

TG1615 : The Northern Distributor Road (NDR) south of Reepham Road by Evelyn Simak TG1715 : Path to Drayton Drewray by Evelyn Simak TG1715 : Construction of a new road junction by Evelyn Simak TG1715 : View across Reepham Road by Evelyn Simak TG1715 : Digger parked beside Reepham Road by Evelyn Simak

TG1615 : Approaching the Reepham Road roundabout by Evelyn Simak TG1715 : The Reepham Road roundabout by Evelyn Simak TG1715 : The new Reepham Road roundabout by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : Landscaping adjacent to the Northern Distributor Road (NDR) by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : A surface water attenuation lagoon under construction by Evelyn Simak TG1615 : View along Reepham Road from the new roundabout by Evelyn Simak

Construction of the main carriageway was completed in July 2017. A restricted byway leading north to Bell Farm from Reepham Road was taken over the NDR by a bridge for pedestrian and private motorised use. The Bell Farm bridge beams were placed in January 2017 and the bridge was completed in May 2017. The Drayton Lane roundabout (just south of The Homestead) was completed in April 2017. A bat gantry was erected just east of the Drayton Lane roundabout, south of Glebe Farm. Drayton Lane (C282) and Holly Lane as well as its western extension, Hall Lane, were cut off. A new route was however built to run from a new roundabout on Holt Road to a new roundabout on the NDR and upon completion of this section of the NDR, the southern end of Holt Road was also closed, with all Holt Road traffic using the new route.

TG1815 : A deep excavation by Evelyn Simak TG1815 : View south-east along the NDR under construction by Evelyn Simak TG1815 : Road roller on the Northern Distributor Road by Evelyn Simak TG1815 : View towards Bell Farm by Evelyn Simak TG1715 : The Northern Distributor Road (NDR) east of Drewray Wood by Evelyn Simak TG1715 : Fence across Bell Farm Lane by Evelyn Simak

TG1914 : Road closed due to construction work by Evelyn Simak TG1914 : Laying of cables by Evelyn Simak TG1914 : View along the route of the Northern Distributor Road by Evelyn Simak TG1914 : The approach to Drayton Lane by Evelyn Simak TG1914 : A mountain of sand by Evelyn Simak

TG1914 : The southern end of Drayton Lane by Evelyn Simak TG1914 : Guard hut beside Drayton Lane by Evelyn Simak TG1914 : View north along Drayton Lane by Evelyn Simak TG1914 : Construction work on Drayton Lane by Evelyn Simak TG1914 : Landscaping beside Drayton Lane by Evelyn Simak TG1914 : Road block by Bugg's Grave by Evelyn Simak

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