Monday, 2 March 2020

Diversionary tactics

Like a lot of things in the world just now, these thoughts have been out there for a while but have now finally emerged here. Not peculiar to our bit of the country but seemingly at times more apparent here is the wonderful dark art of diversion.

I could be talking politics - local or global - but for the moment I'm considering something that affects almost all of us, namely transport networks. In the very local context, road closures - and I use that term advisedly - send the law-abiding or cautious on lengthy and seemingly absurd extended excursions through the delights of the North Norfolk landscape. Not infrequently those wishing to go from Fakenham to Burnham or maybe Wells are confronted by an apparent exclusion zone; "Road Closed Ahead" with well signposted diversion routes.


In the most extreme case in recent history such signage would have lead the unsuspecting on a journey of over 20 miles to drive from Burnham to North Creake rather than the usual 3 miles. The courageous, foolish or well-informed would have found that if they behaved in an anti-social manner and ignored the signs, there was indeed a hole in the road on the edge of North Creake but being looked at and managed by helpful and sensible chaps happily waving traffic through.

These diversions seems absurd to many and cause justifiable irritation and stress to businesses and residents in these challenging times. So why do they happen? Simply because the diversion route has to be of the same standard as the route closed. The fact that the closed road can be about as small as a road can get but still labelled as a B road prevents short local diversions being signed along often wider and safer roads simply because they are "Unclassified". The consequences are missed deliveries, interrupted or cancelled bus services and the absence of all-important customers and trade.


A bit further afield but still in Norfolk the economic impact of closures and diversions have been apparent for all to see in Sheringham and currently in North Walsham. Here the disruption is inevitable with the replacement of mains services in the commercial centre of the town but the cost to a town trying to regenerate is considerable. The very obvious non-opening of town-centre shops in the absence of any visitors or customers on recent Saturdays hopefully will quickly become a thing of the past.

It's quite easy to take a view that all this is of little lasting consequence in these trying times but there is a wider point. There are very good and increasingly pressing reasons, climate and now health-based reasons to encourage life to be as local as possible. If local shops and supplies are impacted, we will inevitably be tempted to travel to overcome this and our journeys are in many cases needlessly extended.

We are creatures of habit, and living and shopping locally is a good habit and we need to encourage and sustain this.

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