Norwich road scheme faces probe


The National Audit Office (NAO) is looking into plans for a Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NNDR) after complaints about its value for money and calls for a review of local highways procurement.

Having received private correspondence on the scheme, the NAO said it would respond ‘in due course’ and the Department for Transport also confirmed it has provided information on the NNDR to the auditors.

This month Norfolk CC passed a second vote 55 to 7 on plans to press ahead with the project, after an application for a judicial review against the scheme was lodged.

In an effort to head off the review, the council held the second vote with a fresh presentation to members that addressed a string of alleged errors in the previous report.

Transport Network revealed this autumn that the scheme has fallen victim to the inflationary pressure sweeping through the highways and infrastructure sector, with an increase in price from contractor Balfour Beatty of £29.9m since 2013 - increasing the cost from £148m to a target of £178m this year.

This raised concerns among members, which were exacerbated when the council had to concede errors in its inflation calculations.

A spokeswoman for Norfolk CC, said the judicial review was concluded and there is no further process.

'We did not contest it and decided to take the fresh decision,' they added.

Cllr Andrew Boswell, who first queried the figures in the original officer report, told Transport Network: ‘I think the council and the Department for Transport (DfT) were in too weak a position to say no to the scheme… in this case expediency trumped value for money.

‘In general I don’t think there is enough scrutiny of the value for money in the local road development pool bids. DfT gives funding approval then delegates all procurement to local councils. I think we need to see a review of DfT processes.’

The DfT has agreed in principal to put a further £10m towards the scheme - along with Norfolk CC and the Local Enterprise Partnership - although this still needs final sign off. 

Update: This article orginally reported that the judicial review application would still need to be seen by a judge. We have since been updated by Norfolk CC that the matter is concluded as it was not contested. 

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