More than £3m to be set aside to pay for planning over NDR Western Link
PUBLISHED: 14:20 07 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:58 07 January 2020
Norfolk County Council
More than £3m is being set aside to pay for more preparatory work on the controversial Western Link, which would connect Norwich's Northern Distributor Road to the A47.
The figure of £3.3m is being worked into Norfolk County Council's capital budget for the next 12 months, with the Conservative-controlled council having made the £153m road one of its key priorities.
Some of the money would be used to pay for traffic modelling, developing and submitting the outline business case for the road to the Department for Transport.
And some of the money would be spent to complete the procurement for the project, so a contractor/designer team is in place by autumn this year.
Martin Wilby, the council's cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, said: "It's important that we invest in better infrastructure for Norfolk and the Western Link is a major piece of infrastructure to link the Broadland Northway to the A47."
Mr Wilby said future vehicles would be more environmentally friendly and there would be a 'biodiversity net gain' - so habitats would be in a better state than before construction.
But critics argue the council should stop spending any more money on the road, particularly as the authority recently pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030.
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Jenn Parkhouse, from the Wensum Valley Alliance, said: "This is appalling. It's £3.3m to spend on a controversial road, which might not get permission or funding and one which public opinion is against."
And Jamie Osborn, Green city councillor and a member of climate change group Extinction Rebellion, said: "Instead of spending £3.3m on preparing this scheme - and hundreds of millions more on the actual construction -the council should be investing in public transport."
The council's cabinet agreed its preferred route last summer.
They selected Option C, a 3.9-mile road 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 and would require a 720-metre-long viaduct over the River Wensum.
The Western Link is backed by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, fire chiefs and bus bosses.
But owners of woodland are against the road, while Norfolk Wildlife Trust has 'grave concerns' about its impact on animal habitats unless there is proper mitigation.
And the Labour group at Norfolk County Council is opposing the scheme.