I picked up a copy of the local newspaper last week for the first time in a while. As with most local rags the news content is inclined to be a bit Daily Star without the fun, e.g. 'dog runs off but is found later shock', or 'spider found in bananas shock.'
But an item did catch the eye: for years Norwich has been cut off, some would say good, from the rest of the country by a totally inadequate road network. That was partially alleviated by the dualling of a section (big deal !)of the north-south A11, but all else remains as is, including the tortuous route to the west. Using the A47 it takes two hours on a good day to get to the bottom of the A1 and then on to the Midlands and the north from Norwich; the Romans did a better job centuries ago, this road has been the subject of upgrading talk for decades.
The A47 serves a southern route round Norwich and for that part it is a dual carriageway; the rest isn’t, apart from a few short sections it is single carriageway, but to the north of the city there is nothing other than a spider's web of narrow winding roads to the coastal towns and getting to the southern A47 was and is a nightmare; having three rivers to cross and no proper bridges other than in the centre of town doesn’t help.
The answer was a northern route to link up with the A47 and this was finally delivered years late, as these projects are, with one glaring omission: the western end just stops and does not link to the A47 as originally intended. No real answer to that omission has ever been satisfactorily given, thereby making the project to a large degree pointless.
Logic would say that the road should never have been started without the mandate to complete the link as inevitably once it stopped there would be a myriad reasons put forward for it to go no further, and so it has come to pass.
The go-ahead for the completion of the link came about before the virus hit. Even that had a sting in the tail: a survey, or as they called it a ‘consultation paper’ and several exhibitions of what might be were put out and put on so that people, mainly those affected by the current rat running, could put their views. We were given three options; only one was worthwhile as the others were too far west to resolve the problem of an incomplete link, increasing rat-running through our area; the vast majority voted for the obvious option but the council decided on a more westerly one - so much for democracy!
There was naturally pressure from those in the first choice area and from those not wanting a nice valley slightly compromised; fair enough, but the moving westwards of the proposed link makes the journey through the rat run more attractive. The link for many would just be too far with a viable though consequential alternative, so well done to the council and highways unit for wasting everyone's time and money by pretending to ‘listen’ to our wants.
The link is also needed as the 'northern distributor' as they call it is also going to have several large housing estates built on its periphery, and the new road will provide access - wait for it - not to the A47, as no one will bother to use the further west option if it is ever completed, but access to add to the misery of the rat run. So drinks all round in the town hall for a monumental climb down that results in a wasted road that would have relieved the large local area being increasingly blighted by this rat run problem.
And it is not just a rush hour congestion problem either. The rat run has two entries, both on weight restricted bridges, but these are ignored by increasing amounts of HGVs that illegally use the rat runs for the same reason as the personal car: it is the only way south to the A47 without a very big detour.
Anyway the government said yes to the money needed and everyone waits; anything is better than nothing even if it does take several times longer than Brunel needed to build a fully functioning railway from London to Bristol.
All of course goes on hold while the virus disrupts our lives and climate change ‘concerns’ go up a gear in the meantime.
So lo and behold various groups and all the opposition parties in the council decide that the link completion is no longer necessary; indeed the money could be better spent on other local projects like buses and those community centres that should have been provided by the developers. The NIMBY’s have joined forces and don’t want anything within a hundred miles of their domiciles and the bat conservation brigade have surfaced. All want those in the area to cycle more (yawn), use buses (which creates another problem if enacted upon, see below), and really want all cars off the road - a recurring theme for those in the climate change industry, for that is what it is.
I am always amazed how local councillors know how to spend millions of pounds of our money for political expediency yet couldn’t run a whelk stall between them.
For the buses to come through our, or what was my road has been an open sore for all the people who live there, not so much for for being against buses themselves, but for the fact that they have been resisted for a very good reason.
The majority would come from a large housing estate that was allowed to be built with only one entrance and exit road that also serves an industrial estate and a retail park, both growing, and has the local ambulance station on it as well; a wonderful example of tunnel vision in local government, and despite everyone who moved there knowing this was the case and the resultant problems should anything shut the road down - and it has happened - they now want a small road that exits onto a country lane that in turn feeds into our road, opened for the buses. That of course is a smokescreen to open the road to general vehicle traffic that would make make my old road an absolute and increasing nightmare with the added new housing traffic. This small road was actually built with the intention of it being buses only and has bollards that raise in the road after a bus passes; this was seen through at the time as a prelude to opening for all and rightly a big protest saw it was not used; nonetheless it remains in place!
But does anyone in County Hall actually point out what is needed for that estate is an exit onto the A47 which much of the estate is alongside? Oh no, that would involve spending money and wisely. Much better to join the protestors to the link completion, give in to the estate group who want the moribund bus exit opened (it is blocked with concrete blocks at the moment) and totally ruin the area.
Their total incompetence is a large part of the problem. Why do councils, having wrung concessions from builders (as in new roads community buildings etc.) in exchange for the permission to put up their God-awful rabbit hutches, then mysteriously allow same to go up without those same ’extras’? We can all draw our own conclusions on that one: brown envelopes, and sheer incompetence - yet some of these decision-making people claim to be professionals in their field!
And as elsewhere people actually vote for these clowns. There are several layers of government we could do away with. I can suggest where to start: get rid of all local councillors, and work upwards.
I was involved briefly with local people wanting traffic calming measures on our narrow road (with, in parts, no pavements); it all came to nothing, despite the local Lib Dumps using the scheme in two consecutive election leaflets as a way to win over the local electorate. They lied, the town hall lied and the Highways Agency lied; they lied about the funding, they lied about start dates twice - and I have all the emails to prove it - and got away with something that in a commercial atmosphere would have landed them in court. Absolute shower, as Terry Thomas would have said.
It is a story I have seen in other areas we have lived in before and know it can be repeated countrywide. Why do we encourage them by voting for them? Not that I have for years, but enough turn out to get these people onto the gravy train in politics with absolutely no result for the electorate or area unless you can count one new bus shelter and a town sign instead of a village one, which is not far short of the sum total of ten years in office that I have witnessed.
This above apparently is worthy of a headline; the only thing of note is that five bloated council officials could all get in it together. Something so mundane that should automatically be supplied by the private bus company is after much head-scratching and moaning about finances considered an achievement; ours was nowhere near as grand.
We desperately need a clear out at all levels of government and sadly like the desperate need for NHS reforms it is unlikely to happen unless this country has a Winter Palace moment.