Nearly two years after the public consultation to decide the preferred route for the A47 dualling between Wansford and Sutton, Highways England have published their proposals with the ‘northern route’ preferred by campaigners announced as the chosen option.
Part of a program of works the £300 million-plus investment will see the A47 improved in six places between Peterborough and Great Yarmouth.
Campaigners had argued for a northern route between Sutton and Wansford to protect environmental interests, reduce construction costs, and avoid claims of archaeological findings adjacent to the route itself.
The ‘A47 Wansford to Sutton Dualling’ report determined that the northern route, the one preferred by locals and landowners, should be the one taken by the new road when it is constructed.
It states: “Our proposal is for a new stretch of dual carriageway which largely follows the existing A47 at the Wansford end, crossing to the north and running parallel to the existing A47.”
The changes will see more than a mile and a half of new two-lane dual carriageway running predominantly to the north of the existing road, some of which will remain as a local access road to further reduce traffic on the A47.
The proposals see the eastern Wansford roundabout being enlarged, with a new lane to the south providing access to the petrol station and Sacrewell Farm.
At the western Wansford roundabout there will be an improved entry from the A1 northbound slip road alongside an improved exit for the A47 eastbound.
There will also be a new left turn lane between the A1 northbound slip road and the A47 eastbound, while a new bike crossing will prevent cyclists from needing to use these busy roundabouts.
Elsewhere on the project, there will be a new pedestrian and cycling route which will pass under the A47 close to the current junction at Sutton Heath Road; new passing places at Upton will be discussed with the local council; and a straight link road will be formed from the relocated Nene Way roundabout, which will connect into the existing Sutton Heath Road close to the Langley Bush Road junction.
Congestion will also be eased and safety improved, with several aspects of the existing road removed, including the bus stop and direct access to the A1 from the properties at Windgate Way, while Upton Road will no longer be accessed directly from the A47 and access at the existing Sutton Heath Road junction will be closed.
Sutton Parish Councillor, and Chairman of the Community Consultancy Team, Cllr Mick Grange said: “While we’re obviously delighted that Highways England have chosen the route preferred by the locals, there are still some issues which remain to be resolved before any works can actually begin.
“We’ve shown that the northern route is the best one for the environment and for the traffic flow, and even the eventual cost of the project and I’m pleased that Highways England have decided to work with us.
“Moving the roundabout will have a massive reduction in construction impact as the majority of the eastern section will be built ‘off line’, with a large portion of the existing A47 to become a walking, cycling and horse riding (WCHR) route.
“The south facing spur off the newly located roundabout will create the link from the old A47 for local traffic, roughly at the end of the drift so that this is not closer to Sutton; while the North spur creates a new much shorter link to the roundabout and Sutton Heath road.
“We’ve always argued that preserving the old A47 over the old rail bridge provides space for a safe WCHR route under the new dualled road, linking to the remainder of the old Sutton Heath road, thereby allowing cyclists and horse riders to travel towards Southorpe and within 250m of the existing bridleway crossing over to Sacrewell. Both Sutton and Wansford parish councils have submitted proposals using Designated Funds to improve that link for all users.
“The WCHR route using the old A47 travelling West will be totally separated from road traffic and extend towards the garage and linked to the new underpass entrance to Sacrewell and also to the recently completed WCHR route at the old truck stop and under the A1 to Wansford.
“Originally this Highways England project did not include any improvements to prevent westbound queuing and local access issues at the Western roundabout at Wansford.
“Despite the efforts of Wansford Parish Council and ourselves challenging Highways England, no sensible solution has yet been found without moving the roundabout junction westward to a more open area. However, we will continue supporting and working with Wansford Parish Council to get a sensible resolution.
“There are challenges that remain including sadly, the fight with Historic England, despite our proving their claims for archaeological interest and so-called scheduled monuments on the field at Sacrewell Farm are based on completely inaccurate data. There’s absolutely nothing of archaeological interest or importance there – we’ve proved that, and Historic England must now accept these findings. Their belligerence has refused to allow any in-boundary changes to allow the carriageway to be pushed south nearer to the river at Sacrewell, and into the county wildlife site, even for a short distance.
“Overall, this route saves a significant amount of environmental damage. It takes the road further away from Sutton, improves WCHR routes and significantly reduces construction disruption hence the reason why Sutton and Wansford Parish councils will certainly support this proposal.
“It would seem that the public consultation, actions taken to inform locals in the area through our campaigning and the use of our ‘A47 Battle Bus’ and all the hard work done by so many has achieved a very good result.”
Project Manager for Highways England, Jon Donlevy said of the report and its findings: “I know it has taken a long time for us to get to this stage, but the A47 is such an important connection linking the cities of Norwich and Peterborough, the towns of Wisbech, Kings Lynn, Dereham, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft and a succession of villages in what is largely a rural area.
“The dualling of the A47 is part of a multi-billion investment to improve journeys on England’s major A-roads and motorways which the Government is funding a package of six projects on the 115-mile stretch of the A47 between Peterborough and Great Yarmouth relieving congestion and improving the reliability of journey times for drivers.
“The Wansford to Sutton section of the A47 is approximately 1.6 miles long, located to the west of Peterborough between the existing junction with the A1 and the Nene Way roundabout near Sutton. Whilst around half of the A47 is already built to dual carriageway standard, the Wansford to Sutton section is not. This section of the A47 acts as a bottleneck, and this causes congestion, resulting in longer and unreliable journey times. In addition, this section of the A47 has a poor safety record.
“Since the consultation in 2018, we’ve analysed all the responses and engaged with key stakeholders to fully understand the feedback received and, as a result, we are now proposing changes to the design, including an alternative northern route at the eastern end between Sutton Heath Road and the A47/Nene junction.”
Highways England programme lead for the A47, Chris Griffin, said: “This stretch of road connects areas of growing economic activity around Peterborough, including linking the A47 to the A1. The current layout of the road can act as a bottleneck, resulting in congestion and slower journey times.
“Following on from our public statutory consultation in October 2018, we’ve taken into account feedback and refined our plans for this stretch of the A47, as it’s important that we get it right for road users and the affected communities. We’ve refined our proposals to address the common themes and concerns raised, whilst ensuring that the project solves the traffic problem, improves journey times and improves safety as key considerations.
“We have also carried out more ground investigations and updated the traffic surveys and air quality monitoring. In addition, we are continuing to carry out environmental and ecological surveys.”
Roads Minister Baroness Vere said: “The A47 is a key route for residents and businesses across the region – particularly between Peterborough and Great Yarmouth – so it’s great to see the latest plans for this major upgrade taking shape.
“Not only will these plans cut congestion, they will also make journeys quicker and safer for all road users – it’s yet another example of how this Government is working hard to level up transport infrastructure across the entire country.”
Historic England were contacted for comments, but made none.
For more information from Highways England on the A47 Dualling between Wansford and Sutton:
On the results of the statutory consultation:
And on the new report:
https://highwaysengland.co.uk/our-work/east/a47-wansford-to-sutton-dualling/ Work on the project should begin in Winter 2022, and be open for traffic by Summer 2024.