Countryside charity calls on council to scrap £198m NDR Western Link

Chris Dady, chairman of the Norfolk branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Picture: ANTON

Chris Dady, chairman of CPRE Norfolk. - Credit: Archant

The controversial £198m Norwich Western Link road should be scrapped now before it becomes mired in costly legal challenges, according to Norfolk's countryside charity.

Ahead of a key meeting over the future of the 3.9 mile road, the Norfolk branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England has urged Norfolk County Council to scrap its plans.

The route of the proposed Western Link. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

The proposed route for the Norwich Western Link. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

The 3.9 mile road would connect the Northern Distributor Road to the A47 west of Norwich, travelling between Weston Longville and Ringland.

It would link to the A47 at a new junction at Wood Lane near Honingham and would also require a 720-metre-long viaduct over the River Wensum.

Artist's impression of a viaduct which could carry the Western Link over the River Wensum. Photo: No

Artist's impression of a viaduct which could carry the Western Link over the River Wensum. Photo: Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Council leaders say it would bring an economic boost and cut rat-running, while the scheme has support from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and businesses, including Norwich International Airport,  First buses and Chantry Place.

But it also has critics, including the Labour and Green groups at County Hall, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the Norfolk Rivers Trust, the Bat Conservation Trust and Norfolk CPRE.

The council's Conservative controlled cabinet and full council will, on Monday, June 7, be asked to agree to submit the outline business case for the road to the government - and to award the contract to build it.

But CPRE Norfolk chairman Chris Dady and fellow members David Hook and Michael Rayner have written to Tom McCabe, County Hall's head of paid service, urging that the scheme be dropped.

They said: "There are major environmental concerns about the whole project and the preferred route in particular, which are likely to result in the road not being permitted to be built.

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"It makes sense, particularly regarding the need not to waste taxpayers’ money on a project which will not be completed due to inevitable legal challenge, to stop the project now and reconsider what is required given Norfolk County Council's priorities to address climate change and to protect the environment.

"The rapidly spiralling costs of the project, currently estimated at £198m increased from £153m, whose benefits are at best debatable, whilst the harms are clear, should result in it being halted now."

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure. - Credit: Simon Parkin

Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure at Norfolk County Council, said: “Given the complexity of large infrastructure projects, the potential for legal challenges should always be a consideration.

"As evidenced in the outline business case, we’ve been through a really rigorous process to get to this point and throughout our work, we’ve taken account of national and local policies, as well as advice and feedback from the Department for Transport and statutory bodies. 

“Ultimately, we want to do this in the right way and we want the project to create a lasting positive legacy for people, businesses and wildlife."

He said there would be "significant investment" in environmental mitigation and improvements, along with measures to support walking, cycling and public transport use.