The 2014 plans

Plans for a walking and cycling route were drawn up in 2014 as a condition for granting planning application to Persimmon Homes to build a large new housing estate at Easton to the west of the junction.

The birth of the cycle route

The western section of Dereham Road looking towards Norwich, where a cycle track is supposed to go – Photo Derek

The idea of a cycle route from Easton across the Longwater junction began with a planning application in 2014 from Persimmon Homes to build a large housing estate called “Festival Park” in Easton. This is in South Norfolk District Council’s patch, but Norfolk County Council is the highway authority.

The story of what happened is sadly opaque and shrouded in complex planning procedures between these two local authorities.

The planning process

As part of the planning application a condition was made that travel by car – especially single occupancy trips – should be reduced by providing a safe cycling and walking route across the A47 junction to the eastern section of Dereham Road where this would link up with the existing cycle track that heads towards the city. This was to comply with the government policies at the time, which if anything have become more stringent.

In particular it was noted that children from the new estate should be able to safely walk and cycle to school, again in line with government guidelines on active travel. The school (the Ormiston Victory Academy) is in New Costessey on the eastern side of the A47 and William Frost Way.

In 2015 Norfolk County Council wrote to South Norfolk District Council outlining their understanding of the plans:

“[A] key element of the development is the delivery of a 3m wide shared use footway/cycleway from the development, along Dereham Road to the Longwater Interchange, over the Interchange and connecting into the existing footway/cycleway on William Frost Way and then along Dereham Road to Costessey. Crossing of William Frost Way will be by using a new controlled crossing (Drawing No: Figure 9.2). Improvements to the route at the Longwater Interchange include signalised crossings on the west bound on and the east bound off slips of the A47(T) and the widening of the footway over the bridge (with an increased height in parapet).”

(You can read the full document here.)

This seems clear enough: as a condition of building the new housing estate, a continuous 3m wide shared use path will be built across the A47 junction with an improved crossing of William Frost Way in the same location as the current crossing. The existing footway over the bridge (at present accessed via a muddy track) will be widened.

But at no time has the cycle route in its entirety been presented to a public consultation, instead it was split into three elements:

  • The cycle track along the western section of Dereham Road (from the new houses to the A47 junction)
  • The crossing of the A47 bridge and the two slip roads
  • An upgraded crossing of William Frost Way

Some parts of the scheme went for planning approval to South Norfolk District Council, buried in the wider Festival Park scheme. The crossing of William Frost Way has became part of plans for a new supermarket, and Norfolk County Council, via their consultants WSP, drew up plans for the bridge which were produced as part of a scheme designed first and foremost to increase traffic over the bridge. As far as we know, the bridge section has never been put out for consultation of any kind.

As a result it no longer forms a viable continuous route to the eastern side of Dereham Road or, most importantly, a route that can be cycled.

This falls well short of the stated aims of the route.

2022: The plans are announced

We first got wind of the plans in April 2022, you can read about them here: Dangerous plans for Longwater that ignore cycling.

What is proposed for the bridge crossing is unbelievably bad, there is no other way to describe it. Norfolk County Council are making motor traffic a higher priority than providing a safe crossing for pedestrians and cyclists. The plan for a cycle route has been sacrificed to increase traffic throughput across the bridge.

The plans for the A47 crossing – Click for a larger version (drawing WSP)

The “foot/cycleway from the main access to Longwater where most of the local areas’ amenities are located, east of the site” has become a still proposed 3 metre wide shared use path from Festival Park to the western side of the A47 on-slip, then a pedestrian-only puffin crossing of the slip road, a 2 metre wide footpath across the bridge (just 50 cm wider than present) followed by another pedestrian-only crossing of the slip road which then connects to the existing shared-use pavement toward Longwater shops.

The promised crossing of William Frost Way has been dropped in favour of a Toucan crossing way down the hill opposite the bus stop and the new supermarket. Now this is a good place for a crossing, but it’s no substitute for a connection to the other side of Dereham Road. Using it would involve a detour of 400 metre (quarter mile) down a steep hill and back up while crossing two busy and dangerous car park entrances.

Remember that this is supposed to be a safe route for 11-year-old children to walk or cycle to school.

2022 – The Travel Plan is presented

In May 2022 the wider aims of the route were confirmed in the Travel Plan for the development:

A Travel Plan is defined as a long term management strategy and package of measures intended to encourage sustainable travel choices for a healthier lifestyle and reduce the reliance on the private car; this effectively requires identification and implementation of a set of interrelated measures and initiatives which will reduce the environmental impact of the travel associated with a development, particularly through the use of public transport, walking and cycling, which reflects current Government policy in respect of transport.”

and specifically that this will include the cycle route across the junction:

“5.6 Offsite highway works are expected along Dereham Road as part of phase 1 of the site’s construction. This includes a new foot/cycleway from the main access to Longwater where most of the local areas’ amenities are located, east of the site. Signalled crossings are expected across William Frost Way, the A47 slip roads, and uncontrolled refuge islands on Dereham Road. This will provide a shorter cycle distance from the site to those working within the employment areas of Longwater and for access to key services.” (our emphasis)

2023: People move into the new houses but there is no cycle route

The letter from Norfok County Council in 2015 went on to say:

“The local Highway Authority has recommended that the delivery of the footway/cycleway along the southern side of Dereham Road and the connection across the Longwater Interchange to further footway/cycleway facilities be completed before first occupation of any dwelling.” (our emphasis).

Festival Park: the first houses are now occupied – Photo Derek

Houses are now being occupied at Festival Park but nothing has happened to provide the promised walking and cycling route.

The Department for Transport

A big complication in all this – which perhaps could be a big opportunity – is that the A47, including the bridge over it, is owned by the Department for Transport (DfT) who back in 1992 had decided to build a bridge with no pedestrian or cycle access in the first place.

Norfolk County Council have argued that restricting the number of lanes over the bridge, which providing a safe cycling and walking route would do has been vetoed by the DfT because it would delay the traffic and that they wouldn’t let them widen the bridge, even if they could afford it.

There is, perhaps, a strong argument for saying the DfT should foot the bill. But this is an avenue that hasn’t been explored by Norfolk County Council at any time over the past 30 years.


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