A well-functioning transport system and access to jobs, services and information is vital to the economy of the area and the well-being and quality of life for residents. Making the most of existing transport infrastructure and providing the additional infrastructure required to support growth will help support delivery of the GNLP. To support emissions reductions, it is also important to promote modal shift to active travel and clean public transport, and to support electric vehicle use in a time of rapid technological change.
Section 9 of the NPPF covers transport issues. It states that transport should be considered from the earliest stages of plan making, to address the potential impacts of development, take advantage of existing and proposed infrastructure and new technology and promote public transport, walking and cycling. Significant development should be focused on locations which are or can be made sustainable, through limiting the need to travel and offering a genuine choice of transport modes. This can help to reduce congestion and emissions and improve air quality and public health. It also recognises that opportunities to maximise sustainable transport solutions will vary between urban and rural areas.
National, regional and local (county) proposals for transport measures include consideration of the growth needs identified by local plans, integrating development with transport infrastructure needs. Central government plans for major roads and there are regional strategies for railways. County led strategies provide for locally significant transport infrastructure. The recognition of and support for transport improvements in the GNLP can be of considerable assistance in applying for funding. The policy consequently identifies and supports strategic and local transport improvements.
Trunk road (the A11 and A47) improvements are planned by Highways England. In October 2017 it announced a timetable for £300 million of A47 improvements82 which will dual parts of the road between Peterborough and Great Yarmouth. Contracts were awarded in September 2019 for the three schemes In Greater Norwich:
- Blofield to North Burlingham83 planned start date 2022-23, planned end date 2024/25;
- Thickthorn junction planned start date 2022-23, planned end date 202584;
- East Tuddenham to Easton improvement planned start date 2022/23, planned end date 2024-2585.
The Government has also announced a Major Road Network (MRN). The MRN comprises local non-trunk roads of national importance and the announcement comes with a fund for improvement. Within the Greater Norwich area, this includes the A140 north and south of Norwich (including the A1270 Broadland Northway) and the A146 connecting Norwich to Lowestoft. Improvements to the A140 include the new roundabout to replace the Hempnall crossroads which was completed in late 2019. The A140 Long Stratton bypass has been given conditional approval by Government. The current programme completion date is the end of 2024.
Significant improvements to rail services have been delivered with more services, new trains and faster journeys across the network. This includes 90-minute journey times on some trains between Norwich and London and regular Norwich to Stansted Airport services via Cambridge. Long-term development of a direct rail link to Milton Keynes, Oxford and the West remains a priority.
Two new railway stations are planned for the area. The Growth Triangle Area Action Plan identifies the potential for new station sites on the Norwich to Sheringham line at Rackheath and Dussindale to serve these major employment and housing growth areas. Dussindale station has outline planning consent.
Local transport strategy for the Norwich area is shaped by Norfolk County Council’s third local transport plan (2011) and the Norwich Area Transportation Strategy (2013) (NATS). A fourth local transport plan (LTP4) is being progressed and a draft consulted on. The plan will then be reviewed and approved by full council in Spring 2021with a full Implementation Action Plan to be developed and approved later in 2021. Work is also underway to review NATS, known as the Transport for Norwich Strategy (TfN). A preferred strategy will be consulted on in 2021. LTP4 and TfN are being prepared alongside the GNLP.
TfN will include measures to improve walking, cycling and public transport facilities to support significant modal shift in the urban area during the plan period. This will be required to assist in meeting national targets to achieve zero carbon development by 2050. The measures are likely to feature improvements to sustainable transport networks and interchanges, including Park and Ride enhancements, and a cross valley bus link between UEA and the remainder of Norwich Research Park. Road improvements to enable the other measures are also being considered.
The Norwich area was successful in securing a place in Government‘s Transforming Cities Fund (TCF) programme, which is bringing in significant investment to the transport networks in the city and surrounding area. Just over £6m was secured through Tranche 1 of the TCF programme, with improvement schemes delivered during 2019/20. A further £32 million has been secured from government through Tranche 2, as well as £18m investment from First Eastern Counties, which will be used to deliver improvements to the transport network, public transport services and buses in the period to 2022/23. The TfN review is being developed alongside the TCF programme.
Norfolk County Council has identified the Norwich Western Link (NWL) as one of its infrastructure priorities. A Preferred Route Announcement for the route of the NWL was made in July 2019 and that route is shown on the Key Diagram. In May 2020 the Department for Transport (DfT) approved the Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) for the NWL which gives the scheme conditional entry to the DfT’s Large Local Majors project funding programme. Work continues to develop the scheme in readiness to submit a planning application in 2021. As it develops the GNLP will reflect progress towards delivery of the NWL
Transport improvements outside the Transport for Norwich area are dealt with on a local basis. The county council has completed a programme of Market Town Network Improvement Strategies (NIS). These strategies identify short, medium and long-term actions including the issues associated with long-term growth. Four strategies are in the GNLP area, these are Diss, Wroxham/Hoveton, Aylsham and Wymondham.
Policy 4 recognises that Greater Norwich is a mixed urban and rural area in which travel and access issues vary, with the use of the private car being particularly important to the rural economy. It is anticipated that the shift to electric and possibly hydrogen vehicles will assist in reducing emissions in rural areas.
Strategic transport improvements in policy 4 include rail and airport improvements, along with road improvements including dualling of the A47, the Long Stratton bypass and the Norwich Western Link Road.
The policy also supports the TfN strategy and identifies this as the detailed means by which transport improvements across the urban area of Norwich will be developed and delivered, including encouraging walking and cycling, and improving public transport
The GNLP authorities will support the transport infrastructure improvements provided that their promoters and the relevant competent authority are able to demonstrate that they would not conflict with other policies of the plan and where there would be no adverse effect on the integrity of sites protected under the Habitats Regulations Directive.