Chris Packham weighs in on Norwich Link Road bat debate
PUBLISHED: 11:49 15 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:14 15 February 2020
PA Images/Giles Anderson/C. Packman
Television presenter Chris Packham has become the latest to hit out at controversial new Norfolk road due to the potential harm to a rare bat species at the proposed site.
The well-known naturalist has voiced his concerns about the proposed new road connecting the Norwich Northern Distributor Road to the A47, saying it is set to destroy a prime habitat of the barbastelle bats to save motorists minutes on their journey.
He has tweeted his support for the Wild Wings Ecology group which is trying to raise £50,000 to fund an independent study assess the road's impacts on the bats and to ensure they are properly protected.
Mr Packham tweeted: "Barbastelle bats are one of our rarest and most highly protected bat species in the UK , yet the Norwich Western Link Road is set to destroy prime habitat - all to cut journey times by a few mins!"
Norfolk County Council said it wants to carry out the work in an environmentally responsible way.
Councillor Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, said: "The preferred route for the Norwich Western Link was chosen, in part, because it limits environmental impacts and avoids any loss of ancient woodland.
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"There is a great deal of demand to create this road to link the A47 to Broadland Northway, which will take traffic congestion off local roads and out of communities, but we're clear that we want to do this in an environmentally responsible way."
The council say its ecology team is considering a variety of measures to protect and support wildlife.
The Wild Wings Ecology campaign said the presence of the bat colony in the woodland should have been detected prior to the route selection.
They have launched the fundraiser to independently assess the road's impacts on the barbastelle bats and to ensure they are properly protected.
It has been supported by Weston Longville Parish Council, who are in favour of the road, and have contributed £500 towards the project.
Dr Charlotte Packman, a bat specialist and director of Wild Wings Ecology, said: "We have been studying barbastelle bats in this area for a number of years and it has become evident that this is probably one of the best remaining locations in the country for this very rare species. The patchwork of woodlands in the area support a network of linked maternity colonies with exceptional numbers of barbastelles. These would be seriously impacted by the council's chosen route for the Norwich Western Link. We must ensure there has been adequate survey to properly understand the significance of the area for the bats and how the road will impact them. The scheme can only go ahead if the legal requirements for bat protection can be met. We plan to gather detailed evidence on this important bat population and will hold Norfolk County Council to account should they fail to propose and deliver effective protection for bats."
To find out more or to support the independent bat research project, visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-bats-habitats-norwich-western-link