'TV naturalist suggests Western Link is not 'tolerable'

Chris Packham on the set of Winterwatch at Wild Ken Hill in Snettisham. Picture: Danielle Booden

TV naturalist Chris Packham has urged Norfolk County Council to think again over its proposed western link road for Norwich - Credit: Danielle Booden

A TV naturalist has renewed his criticism of the controversial Norwich Western Link Road, suggesting it may not be "tolerable" to build the route.

Norfolk County Council hopes the government will chip in £168m of the £198m cost of a new road to link the A47 west of the city with the Northern Distributor Road.

But Norwich City Council has come out against the plan, arguing it would encourage car dependency - a decision the county has labelled premature.

Mr Packham is among a number of high profile critics of the project who recently signed an open letter against it.

While on a break from filming Winterwatch, in Norfolk, he renewed his criticism.

Asked about the road, he said: "I think it's a time when we all need to constantly re-appraise what we do and we need to question the impacts it will have."

"What may have been tolerable yesterday may not be tolerable today."

The route of the proposed Norwich Western Link road

The route of the Western Link. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Mr Packham, an outspoken conservationist, had  previously attacked plans for the new road on his YouTube channel Self-Isolating Bird Club.

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He said the proposals posed an unjustifiable threat to the 'super colony' of rare Barbastelle bats living in a woodland between Weston Longville and Ringland.

Mr Packham said building the road would cause irreparable damage  - and that the compensation offered by the developers would never be enough.

He added: "I'm saying to East Anglia find some bravery up there and say no to this development."

But the county council has said it intends to press on with plans for the four-mile-long road, which includes a new viaduct across the River Wensum.

Proposals have the support of MPs and business leaders but are opposed by a coalition of conservation groups who have come together under the banner of Stop the Wensum Link.

The county council says concerns over environmental impacts and air quality will be addressed during the planning stage for the new route.

Norfolk-born broadcaster and comedian Stephen Fry was also among 23 people to sign an open letter against the link.

It says: “The county is blighted by the construction of car-dependent homes which in turn fuel the need for more and more road building, a vicious circle which must be broken.

“Norfolk is faced with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change direction. Let’s make sure it is not lost.”