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East of England future 'roadmap' is launched

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'Bottlenecks' in our railway lines, remaining reliance on dial-up internet and not overlooking businesses in rural areas is key to seeing growth across Norfolk and Suffolk.

MPs, business leaders, councillors and entrepreneurs from across the East of England attended a reception in parliament on Tuesday as they launched a ‘roadmap’ for the region’s future.

The report outlines several priorities to ensure the east grows in an eco-friendly way and so that nobody is left out.

Some of the region's rail network will be looked at with the roadmap.
Some of the region's rail network will be looked at with the roadmap.

'Bottlenecks' in the region’s railway lines have created 'challenges' to the local economy, the report says, and cash boosts are needed at two crucial junctions just outside Norfolk – Haughley in Suffolk and Ely in Cambridgeshire.

Haughley junction, north of Stowmarket, is on the Great Eastern mainline from Norwich to London, while Ely North junction is the only way to travel directly by train from Norfolk to the Midlands and north of England.

Local councils must be given more freedom and flexibility with how they fund themselves, the report argues. Many councils rely heavily on income generation through tourism, car parking charges and planning processes – revenue streams which have been severely hit by Covid.

Some of the East is still reliant on dial-up internet, which the report says contributed to “digital exclusion experienced by our most hard to reach households during the pandemic”.

It argues that the government “should commit to 100pc coverage of either Gigabit internet or 5G (4G as a minimum) to each household in the East of England”.

When it comes to tackling climate change, the report points out that the region is home to industries based in rural locations, such as British Sugar in Wissington, west Norfolk.

It says those businesses are just as ready as those in more industrialised areas to help the government with its energy aims, but have been overlooked by schemes enabling them to do so because of their rural location.

More investment is also needed to boost “left behind” communities economically and for better flood protection, the report argues.

Speaking at the reception event, Mid Norfolk MP and science minister George Freeman said: “It would be a fitting tribute to Sir David Amess MP to build an inclusive eastern England so everyone – from windiest Norfolk to muddiest Essex and the north of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – feels part of the innovation economy that is so crucial to our future.”

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk