A decision to lodge plans for a controversial new £274m road has been branded "disastrous" and a "gamble" of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money.

Leaders at Norfolk County Council reiterated their commitment to the controversial Norwich Western Link scheme - even though the 3.9-mile road will lead to increased carbon dioxide emissions and County Hall could have to borrow millions of pounds to plug a funding gap.

Eastern Daily Press: An artist's impression of the Norwich Western LinkAn artist's impression of the Norwich Western Link (Image: Norfolk County Council)

Members of the Conservative-controlled cabinet agreed on Monday to take steps that will lead to it submitting an application for the route to its own planning committee.

The Department for Transport (DfT) agreed in October to fund £213m towards the route, which would connect the Northern Distributor Road to the A47 west of Norwich.

But council officers still hope the government will end up giving £251m, which would leave the authority to find about £23m, with the road's cost having gone up to £274m since County Hall originally asked Whitehall for cash.

If the government sticks with the £213m contribution, it will mean the council, which needs to make £46m of savings next year, would need to put in just over £60m.

Eastern Daily Press: Andrew Jamieson, Norfolk County Council deputy leaderAndrew Jamieson, Norfolk County Council deputy leader (Image: Norfolk County Council)

Andrew Jamieson, the council's deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said the council was optimistic it would get £251m, but that it was prepared to commit more to the scheme "should the need arise".

That money is likely to come from borrowing or using the council's reserves.

Eastern Daily Press: David PettDavid Pett (Image: David Pett)

But David Pett, lawyer for the Stop the Wensum Link campaign group, said: "Council taxpayers in Norfolk are now faced with shouldering the mounting costs of this.

"It's disheartening to see this happening at a time when essential services have already been severely impacted due to budget cuts.

"It raises valid questions about the cabinet's justification for imposing such a long-term financial strain on the people of Norfolk, both present and future."

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at County Hall, said: "It feels almost as if they are addicted to this scheme despite the risks and uncertainties - hoping against hope the jackpot will come up as long as they keep using public money as their stake in the gamble."

Eastern Daily Press: Dr Andrew BoswellDr Andrew Boswell

Former Green county and city councillor Dr Andrew Boswell, who has a legal challenge over three A47 Norfolk road schemes coming to the Court of Appeal next month, said: "Every council-promoted road scheme in Norfolk plays fast and loose with the carbon pollution which threatens our very future.

"In its building, the Western Link will help sink the UK’s promise to cut emissions under the Paris Agreement by 2030. Future generations will ask how the cabinet could even think to do this.”

The council had previously said the road would reduce carbon emissions because it would cut the distances vehicles would travel, but new documents revealed it will add about 5,500 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.

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

Graham Plant, the council's cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said the carbon emission increase was due to revised guidance by the DfT and all schemes across the country were affected.

He said other work the council was doing, such as putting in electric charge points and helping replace diesel buses with electric vehicles, showed the council was committed to cutting carbon.

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk County Council leader Kay Mason BilligNorfolk County Council leader Kay Mason Billig (Image: Norfolk County Council)

Leader Kay Mason Billig said the council had a "robust" environmental strategy in place and said: "We are doing many things to reduce our impact, but we are not going to stop these things by just not building roads.

"Norwich is one of the only major cities which does not have an outer ring road and we need that for our future prosperity."

Eastern Daily Press: The Western Link would connect the A47 west of Norwich to the Norwich Northern Distributor RoadThe Western Link would connect the A47 west of Norwich to the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (Image: Denise Bradley)

If the scheme does secure planning permission and get through a potential public inquiry, work would start in summer 2026, with the road open in 2029.

When the county council first lodged the initial business case in 2019, it had hoped it would be open in 2025.