Council say they will not back Western Link in major blow to project

Proposed route of the Norwich Western Link 

Proposed route of the Norwich Western Link - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Another blow has been dealt to the controversial Norwich Western Link (NWL) road, with the city council set to come out against the project.

The Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council wants the government to pay £168m of the £198m cost of the road, which would connect the Northern Distributor Road to the A47 to the west of Norwich. 

But a report to Norwich City Council cabinet has said the road could promote car dependency and fails to meet any of the requirements for them to support it.

Last January, Mike Stonard, cabinet member for inclusive and sustainable growth, called for convincing evidence the NWL was part of a "critical part of an environmentally progressive and deliverable transport strategy for the city".

He said the scheme needed to meet five criteria, including air quality and decongestion benefits in the city, an investment package in public transport, cycling and walking in line with funding for the NWL and evidence wildlife and landscape impacts can be mitigated.

The report to next Wednesday's cabinet said none have been fulfilled and has recommended it the council does not support the road "at this stage".

Mr Stonard's report said there is "no clarity" about the scope of assessments into the impact as a result of completing the NWL, when the assessments will be completed and why they have not already been carried out.

He said: "There is a risk that the construction of the road will promote car-dependency in the area, worsening rather than alleviating traffic in Norwich.

"The NWL is a project of such significance that it is considered the City Council should make its position clear and in light of the information above it is recommended that the council should resolve not to support the NWL at this stage."

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The report said there is a remote prospect that evidence could be provided that the wildlife and landscape impact of the scheme can be mitigated.

A number of businesses have backed the road, as have MPs, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and Norfolk Chambers of Commerce.

But it is opposed by groups such as Norfolk Rivers Trust, the Campaign To Protect Rural England and The Bat Conservation Trust.

The latest move has been welcomed by Green party councillors, who have lobbied against the road.

Denise Carlo, speaking on behalf of the Green group, called on the council to write to the roads minister on its decision and oppose the upcoming planning application.

"Completing an orbital road around Norwich would attract more traffic onto the road network,  generate car-dependent development pressures around the sensitive Wensum Valley and further increase carbon emissions," she said.

She added that transport already contributes to a 40pc share of carbon emissions and building major roads needs to stop if Norfolk is to reach net-zero.

Norwich solicitor David Pett, from the Stop The Wensum Link campaign group, also welcomed the news, saying it reflected a growing concern against the rising cost of the project and damage to the environment. 

He said: "The road serves no useful purpose and is fast becoming an embarrassment.  

"The time has now come to scrap the plan in the same way as Suffolk County Council did in 2020 with regard the planned Ipswich northern bypass following the withdrawal of support from Ipswich City Council."  

Martin Wilby, county council cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure was contacted for comment but did not respond in time for going to print.

Cllr Martin Wilby, Cabinet Member for Highways, Infrastructure and Transport at Norfolk County Council, said: “The Norwich Western Link will take traffic out of the city and bring about many associated benefits, including reducing carbon emissions from vehicles, which is vital as the population of Greater Norwich grows.

“I appreciate there is a great deal of interest in the Norwich Western Link and as our proposals are developed we will continue to share more details and seek further feedback, including in our upcoming pre-planning application consultation. Similarly, there is still much work to do to develop and successfully deliver the aims of the wider Transport for Norwich Strategy and the city council continues to be a major partner in this.”

The 3.9-mile road would go from the A1067, near the NDR, travelling halfway between Weston Longville and Ringland. 

It would link to the A47 at a new junction at Wood Lane near Honingham, with a 720-metre-long viaduct over the River Wensum. 

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