A Norfolk council leader said she will not resign as the future of the £274m Norwich Western Link plan hangs in the balance. 

Critics have called for Kay Mason Billig, leader at Norfolk County Council, to step down as the 3.9-mile road is in danger of failing to secure an environmental licence, casting doubt over the feasibility of the scheme. 

However, Ms Billig has said she will not resign or issue an apology over the matter, adding that the issue had been "completely unexpected". 

Barbastelle bats - which live in woodland along the route of the proposed road - are protected by law in the UK and a special licence is needed from Natural England to do anything which might disturb or harm them. Council officers fear that the Western Link is unlikely to obtain one. 

Amanda Fox, a Green city councillor, asked whether Ms Billig would consider resigning after "ignoring multiple serious warnings" from experts about these potential legal issues. 

Eastern Daily Press: An artist's impression of the Norwich Western LinkAn artist's impression of the Norwich Western Link (Image: Norfolk County Council)READ MORE: Thousands of new Norfolk homes in pipeline after plan is rubber-stamped

Ms Billig said: "I will not apologise and I will not resign over this matter. 

"We have known about the presence of barbastelle bats from the survey work we have undertaken over a number of years. However, the new guidance was completely unexpected and there had been no indication that it was being published. 

"The benefits the Norwich Western Link will create for Norfolk's residents, businesses and economy, and the national funding the project will bring into Norfolk, means this project remains a good investment and a priority infrastructure project."

Pressure has been mounting for county councillors to take the scheme back to the drawing board.

Eastern Daily Press: Campaigners presented their petition at County HallCampaigners presented their petition at County Hall (Image: Newsquest)Graham Plant, cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure, was presented with a petition signed by nearly 20,000 people looking to block the construction of the road due to its potential impact on wildlife.

Campaigners say the project would cause "irreparable damage" to Norfolk's ecosystems, including the colony of rare barbastelle bats.