Western Link debate will rage for years - and we will give space to both sides

Fields off of Ringland Lane, between Weston Longville and Ringland, where the proposed Western Link

Fields off of Ringland Lane, between Weston Longville and Ringland, where the proposed Western Link will cross. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

The Western Link plan to build a dual carriageway connecting the Northern Distributor Road (NDR) and the A47 will be one of the most contentious projects Norfolk has seen for some time.

I can confidently predict that, as it currently stands, it will lead to several more years of debate, costing hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of pounds and probably end up in the hands of the High Court.

It's the most polarising debate affecting Norfolk at this moment in time and neither side appears willing to budge from their respective stance.

And this week I was challenged by a reader as to why the Eastern Daily Press had taken against the scheme. 

I wanted to make it clear in this column that we haven't. In fact, our stance on the project has been consistent since the pandemic hit.

This newspaper is not against the proposal - but we do question whether it's been properly assessed taking into account how much the world has changed since the pandemic and will continue to change as we move forward and try to find ways to hold back climate change.

Western Link map

The Ordnance Survey application already shows the indicative route of the Western Link - even though the scheme does not yet have funding or planning permission. - Credit: Simon Parkin

We've never come out and said it shouldn't happen, but we have come out and said it needs to be paused and reassessed in recognition of the changing landscape since the project was first delivered.

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This project will prove costly and time-consuming, therefore there is surely no harm in making sure it's right at the very start of the process, as opposed to when it is further down the line?

The reader also questioned whether the EDP had got its balance right in terms of our coverage so far, feeling we'd given more prominence to those against the project than those in favour.

To some extent they were right. It's a fact of life that those against something are more likely to say so than those in favour. Our coverage has probably reflected that.

However, I want to reassure all of our readers that we will happily air both sides of this debate, and any for that matter.

This would be the case even if we had decided to take our own stance, which is something we do only rarely and after great thought and consideration.

This newspaper and our website will always do its best to give coverage to every viewpoint, as long they are aired without prejudice and do not come from a place of anger or hatred.

Hate to say we told you so, Mr Johnson

Several weeks ago, when 'partygate' first emerged, this newspaper called on prime minister Boris Johnson and his team to put everything out there and reveal in full what large gatherings they had attended when restrictions were in place and exactly who was present.

Whilst this type of information would be nobody's business in normal times, when avoiding such events was literally seen to be a matter of life or death, it's a very different matter.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covi

Prime minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London - Credit: PA

Weeks later the story continues to grow and grow and with every new revelation Mr Johnson's position as the head of the country is looking more and more untenable.

Ironically, if he had simply put it all out in the open at the very start, the media and the public would probably be concentrating on something else by now.

Not another reason to get up even earlier

I've never been a great sleeper, but having two children seems to have totally destroyed any ability to lay in beyond about 6.30am.

Ironically, after years of being rudely awoken by the children at some ridiculous time, I now wake up a good hour or so before they do as it means I can either go for a run or have a nice cuppa before the carnage of the day ensues. 

And now, thanks to the addictive online word teaser Wordle, I've got a reason to set the alarm even earlier, as it's become the first thing I do before even getting out of bed.

Soon it will hardly be worth going to sleep in the first place!