The NDR and Western Link will bring huge benefits
PUBLISHED: 08:50 22 November 2017 | UPDATED: 09:30 22 November 2017
Archant Norfolk 2017
Opinion: Senior county councillor Stuart Clancy believes that the full advantages of the NDR will only come when the whole road is in use.
Have you driven along Norfolk’s newest stretch of road yet?
The recent opening of a section of the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR) was the culmination of many years of hard work by officers and councillors at the County Council and it’s fantastic to see it in use after so much anticipation and effort to get to this point. A week and a half in, the road seems to be working well and most people I’ve talked to are positive about it, as well as eager to see the whole road open come the spring - as am I.
Because it’s certainly true that the full advantages of the NDR won’t be felt until the whole road is in use. And by the same token, there will be even more benefits to the NDR if our ambition to connect it to the A47 via a stretch of road we’re calling the Norwich Western Link is fulfilled.
Completing a dual carriageway circular road around Norwich would help to open up the whole county. As well as benefiting travel within Norfolk, it would improve journey times and reliability to the Midlands and beyond, particularly when combined with Highways England’s confirmed and much-needed improvements to the A47. The significance of this would be huge: transporting goods into and out of the county using appropriately designed routes becomes a lot easier; Norfolk becomes more accessible and even more attractive as a tourist destination; and businesses that are already based here become more profitable - and businesses that aren’t sit up and take notice.
If we want to create jobs, retain and attract talent and have a strong economy, we have to have the infrastructure to support this. With driverless and greener technologies set to come to the fore, the car will be around for the foreseeable future and in large, rural counties like ours, for many people travelling by car will be the most convenient form of transport for the majority of journeys.
So we mustn’t stand still and we must continue to push for more investment in our road infrastructure from the government. But I understand that some people will worry about what this may mean for our countryside. As a Norfolk man born and bred, I fully understand this view and let me tell you I have no desire to undermine what makes our county so special.
Can you build roads in such a way that is sympathetic to and considerate of the environment? I believe so, yes, and advances in engineering techniques together with a better understanding and priority on the natural world makes this much more achievable than in the past. The NDR is a good example of this, with wildlife measures such as bat houses put in place as part of its construction and around five times as many trees planted as were felled. We are already in discussion with the Environment Agency and Natural England about our proposal to connect the NDR to the A47 and their advice will be vital as we continue through the process.
While I’m not going to suggest that carrying out a major engineering project won’t have an impact on the surrounding environment, it’s also too black and white to say maintaining the status quo is a wholly better option. Concerns regarding the health of the River Wensum may be alleviated by a properly-designed road with a modern drainage system that could actually be developed to help to protect the biodiversity of the river.
Equally, roads that allow traffic to flow freely and get from A to B efficiently can help to reduce air pollution, something that is a particular concern in Norwich and could be greatly helped by taking unnecessary journeys out of the suburban communities within the city. In addition, the long-suffering rural villages around the city that currently experience a lot of traffic will see significant benefits from a Western Link.
When it comes to improving our infrastructure, there is always a balance to be struck. This council believes that the Norwich Western Link is the right thing for Norfolk’s future, and the majority of our residents and businesses are telling us the same. However, with much work ahead of us, we’re open-minded about what shape and route the road may take, ready to listen to people’s views and looking forward to working with others to find the best possible solution.
Stuart Clancy is the Vice-Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Environment, Development and Transport Committee.