Former Green Party leader slams Western Link as 'waste of money'

Baroness Bennett

Former Green Party leader Baroness Bennett in woodland on the route of the Norwich Western Link. - Credit: Martin Schmierer

The controversial £198m Norwich Western Link road would be a waste of taxpayers’ money, the former leader of the Green Party has said.

Norfolk County Council's cabinet and full council agreed to submit the business case for the 3.9 mile road, which would connect the Northern Distributor Road to the A47, at meetings on Monday.

But Baroness Bennett, ex-leader of the national Green Party visited woodland near Ringland, which would make way for the road, on Friday.

She said: "The eye-watering costs associated with this project – some £50m per mile of road  – not to mention the damage done to nature, mean that this project should be abandoned, and the funds redirected into projects that will benefit our planet and which future generations will be proud of.”

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

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

Martin Schmierer, Green city councillor for Mancroft ward, said councils and governments should be investing in better public transport.

Council leaders said the scheme will boost Norfolk's economy and cut rat-running in places such as Costessey and Weston Longville.

Businesses, including Norwich International Airport, Chantry Place and First buses support it, as do the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and Norfolk Chambers of Commerce.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council Member for Highways, Infrastructure and Transport. Picture: Dan

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure, has said the road scores highly on value for money criteria used by the Department for Transport.

He says an extra £22m is to be spent on further environmental mitigation, including more green bridges and tunnels for wildlife.

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If the scheme wins backing, then the council says £168m of the cost of it would come from the government.

Mr Wilby had said: "The Norwich Western Link is a crucial part of our plans to boost Norfolk’s recovery, through major infrastructure improvements and is a high priority in our plans.

“The government has ruled this is high value for money, so we expect it to fund a massive injection of money, delivering a road that so many people and businesses want and showing their confidence in Norfolk.”

But it is opposed by groups such as Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Norfolk Rivers Trust, the Campaign To Protect Rural England and The Bat Conservation Trust.