The Norwich Western Link is one of the most controversial developments in Norfolk’s recent history.

For some, it is a vital piece of infrastructure that will cut down on journey times, while others argue it will be destructive to the environment.

But what do the people on the route think? George Thompson reports

It has been almost 20 years since plans for Norwich's northern bypass were mooted, which led to the creation of the northern distributor road (NDR).

However, the NDR stopped at the A1067 Fakenham road, rather than linking to west Norwich as was originally envisioned.

The Conservative-controlled council's desire to fill in the missing link has held over the communities along the route ever since. In 2016, the council unveiled plans for the Norwich Western Link (NWL), a road completing the connection.

But what do people living in the area think about the plans?

We spoke to residents in two villages to find out...

Dr Mike Cherry

For the 58-year-old from The Street, the NWL has become a sad necessity for Ringland as the amount of traffic cutting through is already a problem.

“Ringland will be seriously impacted by the changes, especially if the dualling of the A47 goes ahead," said Dr Cherry.

“From all the meetings we’ve gone to they don’t seem to be taking each other into account.

“My wife and I were opposed to the NWL, particularly due to the environmental impact.

"But the problem for us now - as a village - is that if those A47 works go ahead, which it almost certainly will, it will bring even more traffic.

“They are closing several roads around here and that will direct the traffic here from people wanting to get to Taverham and Thorpe Marriot.

“We are between a rock and a hard place. The dualling of the A47 will increase traffic for three or four years [while works are being carried out], The only way it can be alleviated is by having the Western Link. It's best of a bad deal.”

However, Mr Cherry was concerned about the cost of the road, if it will rise and how it will be paid for in the current cost of living crisis.

Steve Angel

The 75-year-old Costessey West End resident said the road would be a massive help for the area.

“It would stop people coming through here," said Mr Angel. “Ninety-nine per cent of the people that come down West End they are going to the bypass. It will cut down on a lot of the rat running.

“When they opened the NDR a lot of people said it would make things worse here but it actually helped.

“Every morning there used to be a queueing all the way down from Taverham Lane but when the NDR opened it stopped.

“I think this road will help make things 100 times better, taking the cars and massive lorries cutting through here now off the streets.

“They need to get it done as soon as possible.”

Mike Brennan

Mr Brennan, who formerly worked in planning, entirely objected to the road.

The 69-year-old, who lived on The Street in Ringland, said: “The meadows on the routes are beautiful and unique, to have it going through there is going to be horrific.

“I’m not necessarily sure it's progress. I’m not entirely convinced the need is there anymore.

“We should start thinking more radically about where we should put housing and jobs, the price of fuel is rising as well, the pandemic brought home to roost that people can work from home, not everyone needs to travel.

“If fuel prices stay high, how long can people sustain the cost of travel? People are already starting to think about whether to make social visits, which will also reduce demand for the road.

“I would suggest it is not the right time."

Mr Brennan also raised fears about the cost of the road and who will end up paying for it, as well as noise from development and the eventual traffic.

He said: “We get wind from one direction bringing noise from the A47 and with the new road we would get it from the other way as well."

Graham Bavester

The 79-year-old from Ringland was in support of the road and was left feeling frustrated at how long it was taking to be built.

He said: “It should have been done years ago.

“It will stop the traffic coming through here, that’s the main reason this road needs to be done.

“They come right through here at a hell of a speed, It’s a bit scary really.”

Donna Littleboy

Ms Littleboy, owner of the Swan pub in Ringland, was among those calling for the road to go ahead.

She said the plans have taken far too long already, saying: "People using this area as a rat run is dangerous. Over the last five years, the roads have been horrendous.

“I’d just like them to get all the road works done at the same time.”

A history of the Norwich Western Link: How did we get here?


When the NDR was first proposed, it was set to cross the River Wensum.

But before work finally got under way in 2015, the cost of crossing the river, a site of special scientific interest, saw the breaks pulled on the plan. Instead the road stopped on the A1067 Fakenham Road.

In 2016 Norfolk County Council revived the so-called ‘missing link’, with a preferred route between Weston Longville and Ringland agreed in 2019.

December 2020

In December 2020 fears were raised by independent ecology experts that the route of the road would see construction going through what is likely to be the largest known ‘super-colony’ of 'near threatened’ barbastelle bats in the UK.

May 2021

The cost of the road was revealed to be ballooning dramatically, rising from £153m to £198m. Since then, the county council has repeatedly said it is too soon to say whether it could increase further – with fears raised about increasing inflation and extra costs for materials and labour following Covid.

August 2021

In August, Chris Fernandez, the project manager quit the council just months after the business case was submitted.

Norfolk County Council said the departure would not result in a change to the project's timetable.

November 2021

In late November, the Labour and Green groups, along with the leader of the Liberal Democrats at County Hall united to write to the Department for Transport saying it would be an "environmentally and financially catastrophic" mistake to fund the road.

But Martin Wilby, the county council's cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, was confident the council had made the case for the road to get government cash. The council wants the government to fund £168m of the project.

December 2021

However, in December the council delayed the final round of consultation before the planning application is lodged because ecological surveys had yet to be submitted. The consultation had been due to take place in the autumn last year.

January 2022

January saw broadcaster Stephen Fry add his voice to the campaign against the road. The Broadcaster was among 23 prominent local figures, climate experts and politicians to have signed an open letter against the plans.

Norwich City Council also came out against the plans, saying it could promote car dependency.

This was rejected by Mr Wilby, who said it would take traffic out of the city and bring about many associated benefits, including reducing carbon emissions from vehicles.

February 2022

The county council revealed it has been forced to change the route of the road. This came after their surveys confirmed the presence of bats roosting in woodland near Ringland - more than a year after independent surveys indicated the flying mammals were there.

Officers said they would not have a figure for any cost changes due to the route shift until June, after design work is completed. If the cost does rise, the council confirmed the increase will fall onto the council rather than the contractor, Ferrovial.

April 2022

North Norfolk District Council's Liberal Democrat administration rejected calls from the opposition Conservative group to support the road, calling it "naive and premature”.