New details about Norwich Western Link to be revealed today

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

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

Fresh details about the Norwich Western Link will be revealed today - ahead of a crunch decision over the future of the controversial road.

Papers for Norfolk County Council's cabinet meeting next month - where councillors will be asked to agree which contractor would build the road and to lodge a business case with the government - are likely to be published this afternoon.

It is anticipated that the papers will reveal whether the £153m price tag for the road has increased.

To be in with a chance of securing funding and consent for the road, which would link the Norwich Northern Distributor Road to the A47 to the west of the city, the council needs to lodge a business case.

The council's controlling Conservative cabinet was initially due to do that in December last year.

But that was postponed to January and then March. The March decision was also then put on ice and it is now due to be made on June 7.

Following the cabinet decision, the matter will then go before the full council, later the same day.

When the NDR was originally mooted, almost 20 years ago, council bosses wanted it to link to the A47 to the west of Norwich.

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But that idea was dropped due to the cost of crossing the River Wensum, a site of special scientific interest, with Natural England and the Environment Agency raising concerns.

So the NDR currently stops at the A1067 Fakenham Road.

But the council always made clear it could revive that so-called missing link to the A47 and, in 2016, it was made one of the Conservative-controlled council's priorities.

Three years later, the council's cabinet agreed a preferred route for the road.

That 3.9 mile road would go from the A1067, near the NDR, travelling halfway between Weston Longville and Ringland.

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

Artist's impression of a viaduct which could take the Western Link over the River Wensum. Photo: Nor

An artist's impression of the viaduct on the Wensum Link. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Public consultation over the idea of the road was done in 2018 and further consultation on some elements of the scheme took place last year.

Supporters of the road include the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Norwich Airport, Norfolk Fire and Rescue, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, Road Haulage Association, First buses, most of the county's MPs and a number of district councils.

However, Konectbus, which had backed the road has now switched to a neutral stance.

Norfolk County Council leaders say it would bring economic benefits and ease rat-running, while they would mitigate for any environmental impact.

But there is vigorous opposition. Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the Norfolk Rivers Trust have expressed concerns about the wildlife impacts of the chosen route.

Barbastelle bat found in woodlands which would be destroyed by the proposed Norwich Western Link. Ph

A barbastelle bat. - Credit: C. Packman

Independent bat experts, Wild Wings Ecology, say the road would wipe out what they say is the largest barbastelle bat colony in the UK.

And owners of woodland on the route are also opposing the scheme, with the Stop The Wensum Link campaign group battling to prevent it.

The Labour and Green groups at Norfolk County Council oppose the road, while Norwich City Council withdrew its 'in principle" support for the road in January.

The Department for Transport gave conditional support last summer and the green light to proceed to the next stage of the national process.

But permission and funding has yet to be secured. The council needs to submit the business case to the government, but that has been delayed three times.