The Norwich Western Link and the Long Stratton bypass have been named among road schemes the government wants to "accelerate" - with an ambition for work to start next year.

The inclusion of the £251m Western Link in chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng's government Growth Plan 2022 will be seen as a huge vote of confidence in the controversial road.

The government has yet to rubber stamp funding for the 3.9 mile road, which would connect the A1270 Norwich Northern Distributor Road to the A47 near Honingham.

But inclusion in a list of projects the government intends to accelerate suggests the Department for Transport will bankroll at least part of the scheme.

The county council has asked the government to provide 85pc of the cost - £213.4m - but has been waiting for a decision.

Norwich Evening News: An artist's impression of what the Western Link viaduct would look like at road levelAn artist's impression of what the Western Link viaduct would look like at road level

The scheme, which includes a viaduct over the River Wensum, is opposed by organisations such as Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the Rivers Trust.

Its route has had to be realigned due to the presence of protected barbastelle bats.

As it stands, plans for the Western Link are due to be lodged with the county council's own planning committee next year.

However, the government's growth plan states schemes on the list will be "accelerated as fast as possible, aiming to get the vast majority starting construction by the end of 2023."

It states: "These projects may benefit from acceleration through planning reform, regulatory reform, improved processes or other options to speed up their development and construction, including through development consent processes."

It is not yet clear how the Western Link process would be sped up.

It is not currently designated as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project - a process would mean a decision would not be taken by county councillors.

It is also not clear how the Long Stratton bypass scheme could be accelerated.

That project, a two-and-a-half mile carriageway, was awarded £26.2m last year.

Since then, the cost has gone up from £37.4m to £46.2m, leaving the council with a funding gap.

The project is also facing delays because it is linked with the construction of 1,800 new homes in the area.

Councils in Norfolk are currently unable to grant permission for housing developments because of the 'nutrient neutrality' issue.

They have been told they must not grant planning permission for schemes involving 'overnight accommodation' within catchment areas of the Broads and River Wensum, until they can prove they would not cause more nutrients to flow into waterways.

While work to tackle that issue is ongoing, new prime minister Liz Truss previously signalled she would scrap the nutrient neutrality requirement.

The South West Norfolk MP had also said a transport secretary in her government would "look closely" at the Western Link.

Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport at Norfolk County Council, welcomed the inclusion of the road schemes on the government's list.

He said: “Both schemes are needed to ease congestion and unlock economic growth and are part of our ambitious range of countywide transport improvements set to support local people and jobs.

“We will keep a close eye on the detail of the government’s plans for acceleration of these priority schemes and look forward to the opportunity to work with them on this."

But David Pett, from the Stop The Wensum Link, campaign group, said: "It is concerning that well established legislation designed up protect wildlife and the integrity of our nationally acclaimed local countryside is now, by reason of an economic gamble, placed gravely at risk.

"Whatever label us applied to the link road there is no getting away from the fact it is a very local and insignificant piece of infrastructure that should be scrapped."

Green city and county councillor Jamie Osborn said: "Pushing it through without the checks and balances of the planning system would reduce scrutiny on a decision that is already being made behind closed doors.

"If the government really wants to support a sustainable economy for Norfolk, they need to be investing much more in public transport to connect up the county."

Emma Corlett, Labour county councillor said: "While the cost of the road continues to rocket week by week, this government shows they are willing to turn on the funding taps for this environmentally and financially reckless project, while turning their backs on public transport, public services and helping the poorest in the community."

Another scheme on the accelerated list, which could have implications for Norfolk, is the East West Rail link - a new Oxford to Cambridge railway.

Members of a number of Norfolk councils sit on the board of the East West Mainline Partnership, which has been making the case for that line.

They say such a link could create 120,000 jobs across East Anglia, connecting high value economies in key growth locations in Norfolk and Suffolk with those in places such as Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Aylesbury and Oxford.

Mr Wilby said: "I’m pleased that East West Rail is on the list as this will also be of great benefit to the county and the Eastern region."

In his mini-budget announcement on Friday, the chancellor also made direct reference to Norfolk as a location where a low-tax, low-regulation investment zone could be created.