Full opening of the NDR sparks calls for pressure over 'missing link' to A47
PUBLISHED: 09:18 18 April 2018 | UPDATED: 13:08 18 April 2018
Archant Norfolk 2018
The opening of the final stretch of Norwich's Northern Distributor Road - now called Broadland Northway - has sparked fresh calls for pressure to be mounted to connect it to the A47 west of the city.
Business bosses and people in communities which suffer from rat-running say it is crucial that the ‘missing’ Western Link, which would connect the 12.5 mile road to the southern bypass, is pursued.
But not everybody wants millions more spent on another road in an environmentally sensitive area.
Yesterday morning saw the completion of the Broadland Northway after two years of construction and more than 15 years of planning.
Two sections, from the A1067 Fakenham Road to the A1151 Wroxham Road opened before Christmas and the 3.3 miles from Wroxham Road to the A47 at Postwick opened yesterday morning.
Supporters say the road will bring a huge economic boost and ease congestion on other roads,
But the fact it does not connect to the A47 to the west of Norwich led some to dub it the ‘road to nowhere’, with fears it will lead to more rat-running through places such as Costessey, Drayton, Weston Longville and Hockering.
During consultation over potential routes in 2004, serious environment concerns were raised about routes through the Wensum Valley, which led to it being scaled back from a full bypass.
However, Martin Wilby, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s environment, development and transport committee, believes those issues can be overcome.
He said: “We have made the Western Link a council priority and it is absolutely crucial that it happens.
“There are proper processes which we will need to follow and we will listen carefully to what people tell us. We know it’s a very sensitive site in terms of the environment, but I believe that a solution can be found.”
Such a road would not come cheap. A report which came before councillors last autumn mooted the possibility of a £160m viaduct.
The council had earmarked a potential date of 2023 for work to start, but no funding is in place.
The Wensum Valley Alliance, Green councillors and the Campaign to Protect Rural England are all opposed.
Differing views in communities
Hockering and Costessey are two of the communities which could see an increase in traffic because the road does not carry on to the A47 - but opinions differ over the need for a Western Link.
Richard Hawker, a Hockering parish councillor, said anecdotal evidence suggested even before the NDR was fully opened, traffic in the village was increasing - but he is not convinced another new road is the answer.
He said: “We need a solution to the traffic problem, but I don’t think that is a great big new road through fields and quiet villages.
“To make a decision on a sensible route, you need information on where that traffic is coming from and going to and we haven’t got that information, which we really need.”
But Tim East, Liberal Democrat county councillor for Costessey, said: “This link is absolutely crucial. At a stroke, it would reduce the rat-running through Costessey.”
Support and criticism for link bid
Business leaders say the Western Link needs to be completed as soon as possible.
Nova Fairbank, from Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “The successful delivery of the Norwich Northern Distributor Road is a clear signal that Norfolk is embracing growth and development in order to create the jobs and houses that our region needs and has been strongly welcomed by the Norfolk business community.
“However to maximise the potential for this region – the missing link from the A1067 to the A47 needs to be completed as soon as possible.”
However, the Norfolk branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, warned that whichever option for the route is chosen, it will cause serious environmental damage and loss of countryside.
They want to see a less intrusive highway system and higher priority for public transport.