Countryfile to highlight controversial Norfolk road scheme

Woodland near Ringland in the Wensum valley, where the western link road to the Northern Broadway (N

Woodland near Ringland in the Wensum valley, where the western link road to the Northern Broadway (NDR) would be built. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

Concerns over the environmental impact of the proposed Norwich Western Link (NWL) road are to feature on the BBC's Countryfile series.

This Sunday's episode is due to carry a report on the project, with a particular focus on a bat colony which ecologists fear will be disturbed if the development goes ahead.

The show will feature a visit to the Wensum Valley, north-west of Norwich, where Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council (NCC) wants to build the £198m road. The area is home to a ‘super-colony’ of barbastelle bats. Ecologists have claimed that road would harm the creatures and breach wildlife laws.

Dr Charlotte Packman, of Wild Wings Ecology, is among those to have criticised the project. She said her team was filmed by the BBC as it carrying out its bat fieldwork in August.  

Dr Charlotte Packman, director of Wild Wings Ecology. 

Dr Charlotte Packman, of Wild Wings Ecology - Credit: Wild Wings Ecology

“We’ve been studying the bat populations in the Lenwade, Weston Longville, Ringland area since 2018,” she said.

“We’ve been tracking their movements, finding out where they’re roosting, what habitats they’re using.”

“It’s probably the largest population in the whole country, which is quite incredible really, and it was probably right under our noses for all these years.”

The team is analysing the data and hope to have their work published in a scientific journal.

Dr Packman said that despite providing NCC with a summary of their findings, the authority had been “pretty dismissive”.

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"They're saying that if they don't have all of the raw data, then they're not prepared to listen to it.”

However, giving NCC the data would prevent them from having it published, she said. 

Martin Wilby, NCC’s cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport said: “I hope people will understand that it is absolutely vital that we take an evidence-based approach on any infrastructure project and that the basis for our proposals for the NWL will be examined rigorously through the planning process.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport.

Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport - Credit: Simon Parkin

“So it is with good reason that we have asked Dr Packman to provide the data behind the conclusions she has drawn, so that our ecologists can analyse this information and take it into account as appropriate.

“We have heard what Dr Packman has been saying and we remain keen to be provided with further details as soon as possible, including the location of any bat roosts located through her surveys.

“Until and unless that happens, we will continue to base our proposals for the project on the extensive evidence we have collected through our surveys.”

The episode will be broadcast on BBC One at 5.20pm on Sunday December 5.