RICHARD BIRD

...putting people before party

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Hunstanton: Traffic chaos "acting like thrombosis"

19th June 2008 - the following article is reproduced by kind permission of Lynn News

TRAFFIC chaos on the A149 has been described as acting like a "thrombosis on the financial lifeline for Hunstanton" as the full impact of a £750,000 improvement scheme on the road takes hold.

In recent weeks tailbacks of more than three-and-a-half miles have been seen stretching into the coastal resort from Heacham's Norfolk Lavender junction, where new traffic lights have been installed to improve access in and out of the village.

But this week Norfolk County Council was slammed for not appreciating Hunstanton as a market town and holiday destination by town mayor Richard Bird, who believes a roundabout would have been a better solution and now wants the timings changed to ease the traffic flow.

He told the Lynn News: "If you come from the M25 area you are used to it but I know a lot of people who are using detours two or three times as far due to the gridlock caused.

"The roundabout option has worked everywhere else. I think the argument of the roundabout not letting traffic out of the village is very weak, this is all about economy by the council.

"In Hunstanton, as a market and destination town, we hoped we would have been consulted, but we never were.

"25,000 people come here every week during the summer months to be confronted by an area which is not really considered by the highways department.

"Now, before the season has even started, we have got huge problems in the area. The timings in the lights have to be reconfigured as they do not allow the flow of traffic along the A149.

"We have 146 businesses operating to customers, employing 750 people minimum, but that is being jeopardised by the traffic light option."

While Mr Bird conceded the scheme has been of benefit to Heacham residents he said the tailbacks, combined with excessive parking charges at the resort, may impact on the number of people choosing Hunstanton as a holiday destination.

Heacham parish clerk Philippa Sewell said the improvements have been a welcome addition to the village but agreed the timings may have to altered to help traffic flow.

She added: "We are still very much of the opinion that it has delivered what we wanted. Access was a big issue but what it has provided is a safe junction for everyone, not just those coming in and out of Heacham."

Norfolk County Council is aware of the tailbacks during peak periods and is now observing the lights to see if adjustments are needed.

Spokesman John Birchall said: "These are very sophisticated lights which respond to approaching traffic. Generally they have been working well, but observation has shown that at peak times the lights have perhaps been too generous to side road traffic.

"Engineers have been making adjustments to get the right balance between letting the side road traffic out in reasonable time without holding up the main road traffic any more than necessary.

"Even before the traffic lights, this stretch of road could become extremely congested and the junction was the site of more than 20 injury accidents in recent years."The traffic lights significantly reduce the risk of further serious accidents at this junction, and this was one of the principal reasons for Norfolk County Council spending 750,000 on the junction improvement."

Mr Birchall said a roundabout would not have solved the problem of people being unable to get out of Heacham because the A149 traffic would have dominated the junction.

He added it would also have had an effect on the flow of A149 traffic so there could be no guarantees that a roundabout would have avoided tailbacks at peak periods.

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