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Councillors map out plans to make Norfolk prosper

PUBLISHED: 06:30 03 April 2012

General view of Norfolk County Council -  County Hall, Norwich

General view of Norfolk County Council - County Hall, Norwich

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

Council bosses have mapped out how they believe multi-million pound investments in roads, railways, broadband and businesses could thrust Norfolk into an age of prosperity.

Backing a bid to secure European Union cash to dual the A47, Norwich’s northern bypass and getting faster internet speeds are high on Norfolk County Council’s list of demands.

The authority’s blueprint, signed-off by councillors yesterday,also hopes to bolster the county’s economy by: starting-up rural businesses by creating seven market town hubs; improving rail links between Norfolk and London, Cambridge and Norwich and Cambridge and King’s Lynn; promoting “World Class” Norfolk as a place to work, live and visit; developing Great Yarmouth’s third river crossing; encouraging businesses to start up and grow; creating up to 500 apprenticeships; and building an advanced manufacturing centre at Hethel.

A familiar sight on the list is the A47.

The council says it will “champion” the road’s bid to be eligible for EU funding, which could help dual it from Great Yarmouth to Norwich and beyond.

Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation, told yesterday’s cabinet meeting: “We are working very closely with the government. Brandon Lewis has secured a meeting with Mike Penning about the entire length of the A47. The reason we are looking at that is it’s vital we have a secure and proper road coming into Norfolk that can feed-in to all market towns.

“From an economic development point of view, it’s very important this road is looked at as a matter of priority.”

For businesses there are several ideas, including £200,000 to help establish a larger programme to help businesses start up.

Attleborough, Aylsham, Downham Market, Fakenham, Harleston, North Walsham and Swaffham will also host pilot projects for “market town enterprise hubs”. The aim is to help rural businesses to start up. A separate project is looking to encourage female entrepreneurs.

Up to 500 apprenticeships could also be created by £4.5m earmarked for the project.

Martin Lake, Mid Norfolk branch chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “I think time will tell. The public sector and private fundamentally think differently and work at different speeds.

“I think the council has pretty much got it right with road, rail and broadband. Broadband for me is such a key one as it puts SMEs (small and medium enterprises) on a similar footing to much larger competitors.”

But Mr Lake added he would not like to see progress made at the expense of damaging the lifestyle offered by the county.

He said: “I would love a dynamic, happy, vibrant community to live in, as most people would.”

Richard Bearman, Green Party group leader at County Hall, said he was unconvinced road building would solve Norfolk’s economic issues.

What do you think? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 3RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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