Frustrated council leaders have been dealt a fresh blow over the Norwich Western Link, with a new delay hampering hoped-for progress on the controversial scheme.

And critics, seizing on the latest hold-up to hit the £251m project, have called on Norfolk County Council to abandon the "doomed" scheme before the bill for taxpayers increases even more.

The government has yet to approve and bankroll the 3.9-mile road, which would connect the A1067 Fakenham Road to the A47 west of Norwich.

Eastern Daily Press: Campaigners against the Norwich Western LinkCampaigners against the Norwich Western Link (Image: Archant)

That uncertainty led the Conservative-controlled council to announce, in February, that it was pausing the plan to lodge a planning application for the project.

While the Treasury has yet to confirm if it will back the scheme and fund 85pc of the cost - some £213.4m - Tory councillors had hoped they could push ahead with a decision to submit a planning application for the road to keep the scheme on track.

Eastern Daily Press: How the viaduct on the Norwich Western Link could lookHow the viaduct on the Norwich Western Link could look

However, officers at County Hall advised them that would carry too high a risk, so plans to take the matter to this month's meeting of the Conservative-controlled cabinet had to be abandoned.

Eastern Daily Press: How the Norwich Western Link would lookHow the Norwich Western Link would look (Image: Norfolk County Council)

Instead, it will now be July at the earliest before the matter, including the results of the latest public consultation over the road, comes before the cabinet.

Opposition councillors asked questions about the delay at a recent meeting of the authority's cabinet.

Eastern Daily Press: Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transportGraham Plant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport (Image: Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk)

Graham Plant, the council's cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said: "The advice from the officers involved in the delivery of the Norwich Western Link is very clear and has informed our decision-making regarding the timing of reporting to the cabinet.

"Until a funding decision is confirmed by the Department for Transport, and therefore without being able to demonstrate that funding has been established, it would not be prudent to commence with formal statutory approval processes."

READ MORE: Western Link road 'would improve ambulance response times'

Mr Plant said that meant processes such as submitting the planning application to the council's own planning committee and compulsory purchase orders to obtain the land needed for the road could not happen yet.

Eastern Daily Press: The Norwich Western Link would connect the A47 to the A1067 Fakenham RoadThe Norwich Western Link would connect the A47 to the A1067 Fakenham Road (Image: Denise Bradley)

Speaking after the meeting, he said: "We had hoped to be in a different position by this point and to have received a funding commitment from central government, which would put us in a really strong position to submit the planning application and progress this important project for Norfolk.

"We have waited to receive a cabinet report as long as we reasonably could on this basis but we agreed with officers last month that we should receive an update and agree next steps for the project at the July meeting."

But critics said the latest delay was another reason why the plug should be pulled on the project.

Eastern Daily Press: Emma Corlett, deputy leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County CouncilEmma Corlett, deputy leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council (Image: Archant)

Emma Corlett, deputy leader of the Labour group, said: "We have said before that tens of thousands of pounds are added to the bill every month that this is delayed.

"It seems the council is finding it impossible to get a straight answer from the government and we do not even seem to know where in the process the project is.

"This doomed project was reckless, financially and environmentally from the start and it should be scrapped.

"In the meantime, time has been wasted when alternatives to the road could have been worked up, but instead, people living in communities which suffer from rat-running have been left waiting for this road which never comes."

Eastern Daily Press: Green county councillor Jamie OsbornGreen county councillor Jamie Osborn (Image: Jamie Osborn)

Green county councillor Jamie Osborn said: "The one thing which is consistent when it comes to this project is that the Conservatives are not being open about the risks involved, both in terms of the finances and the environment.

"It's not surprising to anyone who has looked at the figures surrounding this road that the government has still not awarded the money for this road - because the figures just don't stack up."


It is Norfolk's flagship infrastructure project - the £251m Norwich Western Link road - but it seems, with each passing month, that this is a scheme less and less likely to happen.

The 3.9-mile road is designed to link the A47 with the Norwich Northern Distributor Road to the west of the city and has been hailed as a priority for Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council for several years.

It's been an ambition for even longer - with the connection originally a part of the plans for the road which became the NDR.

When the NDR was first proposed the idea was it would effectively be the city's northern bypass.

But the prohibitive cost of finding a way to cross the River Wensum, amid opposition from Natural England and the Environment Agency, meant it had to be ruled out at that point.

However, it was little surprise, in 2016, when County Hall revived the so-called missing link, with a preferred route between Weston Longville and Ringland agreed in 2019.

It is now 2023 and the council still does not know whether the government will bankroll the bulk of the cost of the road, which must surely raise serious questions about whether it will ever happen.

The council has faced criticism throughout the process, not least because of the presence of rare barbastelle bats along the route of the road.

The authority eventually conceded it would need to alter the road's route. The outline business case was lodged with the government two years ago.

But so far, the government has given no confirmation that the business case will be approved. In the meantime, the cost of the project has increased.

Amid that limbo, frustrated councillors had hoped they could still keep things moving by lodging a planning application.

Officers have said that was too risky without a government commitment to funding, so that will not happen for at least another month.

Meanwhile, critics say it shows it's time to ditch this road.

And given the government's ongoing silence, you really have to question whether this will turn out to be a dead end.