Campaigners say carbon emissions report shows why Western Link should be scrapped
- Credit: Norfolk County Council
Campaigners trying to stop the Norwich Western Link say a report, stating 80pc of carbon savings through cleaner cars will be wiped out by road building, demonstrates why the scheme should be scrapped.
Protesters say the Transport for Quality of Life report shows road building will generate huge new carbon emissions and is incompatible with dealing with the climate emergency.
Norfolk County Council wants to build the £153m, 3.8 mile Western Link to connect the Northern Distributor Road to the A47 and is due to begin fresh consultation next month.
The route would go from the A1067, travelling between Weston Longville and Ringland. It would link to the A47 at a junction at Wood Lane, near Honingham, with a 720-metre-long viaduct over the River Wensum.
But former Green city and county councillor Andrew Boswell, an environmental consultant, said the new report should make the county council freeze the Western Link scheme and Highways England halt A47 dualling.
He said: “Road schemes planned in Norfolk are due to add tens of thousands of tonnes of CO2 to the world’s atmosphere each year.
“Yet, this is the crucial decade to take action to meet the Paris agreement, and the United Nations has sounded a loud alarm, warning the world that ‘we face a direct existential threat’ if we do not change course this decade.
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“Future generations will see building carbon intensive infrastructure as a climate crime. This is not some unknown or abstract issue.
“The science is clear, and the evidence is there in the Transport for Quality of Life report and in the reports of the road promoters.
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“All parties involved – the Department for Transport, Highways England and Norfolk County Council - must freeze these projects and urgently review their transport policies.”
Norwich solicitor David Pett, a member of the campaign group Stop the Wensum Link said: “The need for this road is redundant. We already know it will devastate the local biodiversity and environment.
“The preferred route ploughs through woodland with incredibly old trees, the home to rare bats, and the damage it will cause is irreversible and cannot be recreated by discredited biodiversity off-setting.
“The economic case for the road has been shattered with the effects of COVID-19 and the report today, with our local data, shows the road will cause untold atmospheric damage too.
“The council must stop spending money it simply does not have on destroying the future for our children and grandchildren.”
But Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways and infrastructure at Norfolk County Council, said: “In a largely rural county like Norfolk, making improvements to the road network is vital to help reduce congestion, improve road safety, support businesses and reduce emergency response times.
“This investment is even more important now to help the local economy recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“With significant job and population growth anticipated in the Greater Norwich area, it’s crucial that we have the transport infrastructure in place so communities can grow successfully and people and goods can get where they need to go safely and efficiently.
“Increases in traffic and associated carbon emissions are predicted to occur in Norfolk without the dualling of the A47 and creation of the Norwich Western Link, and so would have to be accommodated on the existing road network instead.
“These projects would take traffic out of communities and residential areas, leading to improvements in air quality close to people’s homes and bring other benefits such as improving road safety and encouraging people to walk and cycle on the existing road network.”
And Nova Fairbank, head of policy for Norfolk Chambers of Commerce, said better roads were vital for the county economic growth.
She said: “From tourism to logistics; energy and manufacturing; to research and agriculture; all sectors across our region rely heavily on our road infrastructure, particularly the A47, as our main artery east to west and onwards to the Midlands
“Improvements to this route are vital to help us to remain accessible and competitive.
“We believe the full dualling of the A47 is a ‘must have’ for our region, in order to deliver greater economic growth and jobs.
“Similarly, the Norwich Western Link is also a vital piece of infrastructure – it is the final piece of the puzzle to ensure that road infrastructure around Norwich will meet our growth ambitions.”