A11 Fiveways roundabout to be closed

The approach to Fiveways Roundabout

The approach to Fiveways Roundabout

On Tuesday I went to a meeting with the Highways Agency (HA) in Thetford and fellow local County Councillors to discuss, well not discuss more be informed about the progress of the works to dual the last remaining single carriageway of the A11 to Norwich, the single biggest issue being the upgrade works on the big roundabout at the start of the works known as ‘Fiveways’, essentially the HA have decided in their wisdom to close the roundabout over three weekends in October, here is the .pdf link to the document detailing the plan.

http://assets.highways.gov.uk/roads/road-projects/a11-fiveways-to-thetford-improvement/s130131%20Fiveways_ThetfordFINAL.pdf

Last year right at the start of the project I recall sitting in a meeting with the HA at Endeavour House where I and my fellow County Councillors stressed the one thing they needed to make sure they did was keep the road open, as much as possible, during the course of construction to minimise the disruption to our communities and they assured us they would.

Of course we all very much welcomed the road dualling, we all appreciate that some disruption is inevitable, but we felt that if the traffic is keep flowing it would cause the minimum disruption to our communities and that point seemed to be taken on board, they made comment that overnight at moments of cross over from one section to another the road would have to be closed and we all entirely understood that.

So at Tuesday’s meeting you can imagine my disappointment, which I voiced, asking why last year they thought they could do the work and keep the road open and this year they said they could not? Was it possible to keep the road open? Or was it about a decision not to spend the money? I was politely told that it would take longer and only one lane would be in operation, both of which I said would be acceptable, but like a seasoned politician the HA Project manager politely ducked the cost question and moved on.

Clearly the works could be done and the road remain open, a simply section of temporary roadway across the middle of the roundabout would have ensured that, yes more cost but the road would have keep open.

This leads us onto the role of local government, if this was a County project, and many of us believe that democratic accountability is precisely what is needed in the vast monolith that is the Highways Agency, then our wishes on behalf of our communities to keep the roadway open throughout its construction would have made that happened. Of course the reply to this perennial question is that they report to a Government Minister thus are democratically accountable but in truth they make decisions with no reference to democratically elected anyone.

Simply put if Suffolk had been in charge and we had said we want the road to stay open then they would have designed a scheme of works that would have done precisely that.

I suspect for all the publicity when the roundabout closes on those first two of the three weekends in October traffic chaos and grid lock in Worlington, Mildenhall, Eriswell, Beck Row and Lakenheath may well occur and then my post bag with be full of complaints because ‘surely the county is in charge of the roads’, when in reality because its Highways Agency we seemly have no influence at all.

About askcolinnoble
I'm a Conservative politician-lite, I dabble a bit in Party Politics with my main focus of working hard and being a strong voice for my community making sure local government delivers quality services and fellow residents get value for money for their hard earned money they pay in Council tax | Where this Gravatar appears and I am expressing my views or liking something I do so in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the Conservative Party or come to think of it anyone else | But having said the above at an election time and to stay legal anything I write is promoted by Kerry Buist on behalf of Colin Noble, both at West Suffolk Conservative Association, Unit 8, Swan Lane Business Park, Exning, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 7FN

5 Responses to A11 Fiveways roundabout to be closed

  1. A Ross says:

    Strange your complaints about HA when the County Council are acting in the same way in Ipswich – not consulting residents or even Borough Cllrs and placing in schemes that were not in the original ‘ Ipswich fit for the 21 century transport project

    • Everyone welcomes the investment this government is making in the dualling of the A11, investment that was stalled for 13 years whilst a Labour government bankrupted this country. The Highways Agency has not listened and refused to spend money to make sure the road stays open. In Ipswich the Conservative County Council is investing £21million in the scheme to make improvements to keep Ipswich moving, a scheme that hen completed with give Ipswich a traffic management scheme that rivals any town in Britain, as Mark Bee said on the Mark Murphy show lets get the system up and running, and then lets see if it improves the traffic flows and have the debate about should Suffolk County Council have invested more in Ipswich than the Borough spends in two whole year. I seem to recall last week my Colleague Cllr. Graham Newman attended a meeting with regards one aspect of the overall scheme, traffic lights on Bishops Hill and is doing precisely the thing you say we are not doing, listening. Mind you in the county elections Labour said the libraries were closing under the Conservative County Council and look what nonsense that is.

  2. Ben Redsell says:

    I’m sorry Colin, but I am with Cllr Ross on this one. To be informed that SCC failed to carry out consultation because of the County Council elections, the date of which everyone had known for four years, is bad enough, but to be told “construction is likely to start in 2014 so we need to finish the local consultation by the end of 2013” implies that the result of the consultation is known before the start of it. Indeed the Bishop’s Hill scheme you mention, the trunking has already gone in before any consultation at all, and local councillors were simply not told what was happening, including the local county councillor.

    Is it any wonder people believe that Suffolk County Council hate Ipswich and somehow want to destroy the town centre? I realise this isn’t true, but you really need to question the officers advice a great deal harder about whether these schemes are even necessary.

    Otherwise you are just like our last Labour Government – look at the nice new shiny (hospital/school/aircraft carrier) and shout about how much money we’re spending, as though money invested is the same as results and outcomes.

    I rather hoped for more from Suffolk County Council.

    • Hi Ben, thanks for the comments, sorry for the delay in approving been away. Just before I reply, I think anyone kind enough to read my blog post will be a bit confused as my blog post does not get into the Bishop Hill in Ipswich issue – that was a bit of a debate on twitter.

      So by way of context, in response to my blog Cllr. Ross (a labours Councillor on Ipswich Borough Council), suggested on Twitter that the behaviour of the Highways Agency was no different to that of Suffolk County Council.

      Whilst we can argue the semantics of whether a consultation should start with saying it has to be done by such and such a date as construction is proposed by a certain date, I think is a very fair point and one I’ll take up, however you do rather make my point that there is actual consultation, equally my colleague Cllr. Graham Newman did attend a meeting last Tuesday and has promised to reflect on the concerns raised. With regards not taking place during the election period which has been know for 4 years, I’ll also make sure we learn from this.

      The point I was making in my blog was about the lack of spend and ignoring a simply request to keep the road open during the works, everyone welcomes the significant investment in the road and frankly I and others are not questioning the design of the works nor the layout (albeit it has been subject to a public enquiry), as that’s all great for my immediate area and will bring huge benefits to our local community when completed, it was about the HA refusing to do the one thing we asked to simply keep the A11 flowing as they did the works.

      I accept that people are sceptical about the proposed linked traffic management system being installed in Ipswich and that the consultation on the scheme which will the exception of the inclusion of Bishop’s Hill, has been extensively consulted on and alterations made, failed to win all hearts and minds. Clearly some people remain sceptical or perhaps simply unaware of the complexity and sophistication of the system, I heard one conversation which likened the scheme to a slight increase in the time sequence in the morning to that at rush hour. So clearly the consultation did not get out as widely as it should, again something I will take back.

      But I can assure you before we take a decision to invest £21million of the hard earned money of the good people of Suffolk in any project, we do it not out of love nor a fascination with ‘nice shiny new’ thing, in this case traffic lights, but hardnosed evidence that it is required and will help deal with the increasing traffic flows in our county town. As far as I am concerned if we don’t invest in the traffic management system for Ipswich eventual grid lock will ensue and that would destroy the town centre quicker than anything, as people would avoid coming into Ipswich.

  3. A Ross says:

    Colin
    Afraid you are wrong on a number of points,

    Cllr Newman attended a meeting when asked by Borough Cllrs – after we were told no officers would attend. There has been no SCC consultation on Bishops Hill. But there has also been no consultation on other parts of the scheme including removing roundabouts on Norwich Rd

    There was consultation on the whole 21 million pound scheme but there have been some significant changes since, and no consultation on them and even worse the changes seem to have been sneaked through during the election period!

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