The Road to Opportunity

Published 16 May 2016

Work is well underway on the construction of Norwich’s Northern Distributor Road (NDR) – and that is good news for both commercial property investors and the wider business community, says Guy Gowing, Managing Partner at Arnolds Keys.

Unlike the southern bypass, which was designed principally to relieve traffic congestion, the NDR is all about releasing development opportunities to generate economic growth.  It is even accidentally highlighted on a map in Broadland District Council's address as 'Norwich Northern Development Route'. The Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has called the road ‘a key part of our Strategic Economic Plan’, and argues that its construction is ‘critical’ to unlocking jobs and growth across the region.

Research has shown that the new road could deliver more than £1 billion in economic benefits for the city and the wider area, with the potential for 12,000 new jobs to be created, and 10,000 new homes to be built.

Much of the controversy surrounding the NDR plans were because people didn’t really understand what it was for, and assumed it was just another bypass. 

All of us who care about economic growth in Norfolk need to help get the message across that this new road is a crucial link in keeping the supply of commercial and industrial land at a reasonable level – and hence enabling the Greater Norwich area to deliver its ambitions for growth in the long-term. 

Growth means greater prosperity for everyone: more and better jobs, a decent supply of new homes to meet chronic housing need, money for social infrastructure such as schools and health, and a rising standard of living.  Who wouldn’t want all that?

Towns and villages all around the north of Norwich and beyond will benefit.  Places like the Sprowston/Rackheath/Thorpe End triangle and Taverham/Drayton will see increased investment, and by providing better access to the city’s airport, the NDR will at last open up Norwich International’s potential.  For too long the airport has stood isolated on the northern fringes of the city – no more.

Of course, it is impossible to create a massive infrastructure project like this without some downsides, and its construction has necessitated the compulsory purchase of around 850 acres of (mostly agricultural land), whilst there has been compensation for the losses, some consequences are more difficult to put a price on.  The character of Thorpe End garden village is likely to be permanently changed, although the flipside for many is that the NDR will certainly relieve many local rat-runs.

There have been many words written about the ‘missing link’, from Taverham through Ringland to the A47.  I suspect that once the new road is completed, and its benefits start to become obvious, we may see momentum towards completing the circle, and opening up northern Norwich to the markets to the west of our county.

But it mainly comes back to this: the supply of industrial land in Norwich has been very tight for some years, and the NDR will create new opportunities in both the commercial and residential sectors. Investors need to be thinking now about those opportunities, so they are at the front of the queue to take advantage of the benefits the NDR will bring.

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