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Government blocks Norwich bypass contract

The Government has blocked Norfolk County Council’s plan to bypass competitive tender and offer a £106.5M contract to framework contractor May Gurney for designing and building the proposed Norwich Northern Development Route.

Local lobby group "No to the NDR Group" brought the matter to the Government’s attention out of concern the plan would be contrary to the public interest.

Norfolk wanted to sign up May Gurney on the basis of an existing strategic partnership contract on grounds that few firms would bid in the run up to the Olympic Games. Interim advice from Government lawyers says the arrangement would be "inappropriate", contradicting legal advice obtained by Norfolk.

The County is now in difficulties trying to raise £106.5 million (3) for a NDR, with costs rising all the time. Sources of funds identified but looking uncertain are:

• £61 million from the Regional Funding Allocation; (4)

• £20 million from developer contributions; (5)

• £25 million from Growth Point funding. (6)

Tapping the Transport Innovation Fund is unlikely now that the Government has become wise to local authorities, such as Norfolk, wanting the money for road building rather than road pricing. (7)

Denise Carlo, a spokesperson for ‘No to the NDR’ Group said:

“Norfolk’s dubious method of trying to peg rising costs for the Northern Development Route by avoiding competitive tendering demonstrates the desperate lengths to which the County is going in order to push through its expensive scheme.

The County’s original justification for the NDR and the basis of the 2003 public consultation was to relieve congestion in Norwich’s northern suburbs and surrounding villages, but it is patently obvious the County is relying on significant funds from development and growth for its construction. A development route would generate traffic and increase congestion on the local network”.
For further information, contact Denise Carlo tel 01603 504563.

Notes for Editors

1. See Norfolk County Council Report to Cabinet on NATS/Northern Distributor Road Progress Report dated 9 July 2007 – page 5 and Appendix 3 on Procurement
http://www.norfolk.gov.uk/consumption/groups/public/documents/committee_report/cabinet090707item9pdf.pdf

The County aims to submit a Major Business Case and planning application in summer 2008.

2. No to the NDR Group have dubbed the Northern Distributor Route the “Norwich Northern Development Route” as the purpose of the road is to facilitate major development around north Norwich in order to pay for the road, rather than relieve congestion, its original stated purpose.

3. The present day cost of the NDR is £92 million, estimated to increase to £106.5 million in 2010, the planned start year of construction. ‘No to the NDR Group’ believes outturn costs could exceed £140m.

4. The NDR is one of twenty five transport priorities contained in the East of England’s Regional Funding Allocation. The total cost of the RFA is escalating and has exceeded the fixed total budget of just over £1 billion. Schemes in the category ‘Schemes which do not yet have approval” that include the NDR, could fall off the perch.

5. The County is looking to locate substantial development between the City and NDR as a way of part-funding a road. The Draft Joint Core Strategy for the Norwich area which is currently being drawn up to form the planning framework for new housing and growth asks whether the NDR should form the outer limit of the built up area should major growth occur in the northern suburbs? Norfolk sold the scheme to the public in the 2003 consultation as relieving congestion in the Norwich northern suburbs.

6. Norfolk County Council sought and obtained growth point status for Norwich specifically to gain access to Government funds for infrastructure and use the money for building a NDR.

7. Norfolk was awarded TIF to examine road pricing in the second round, but the Cabinet transport portfolio holder, Cllr Adrian Gunson, has repeatedly made it clear the County has no intention of implementing road pricing.


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