Controversial Western Link decision to come under spotlight again

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

Further questions are to be asked about the controversial £198m mooted Western Link road, after councillors 'called in' a decision by the Conservative-controlled cabinet of Norfolk County Council.

The cabinet and full council both agreed to submit the outline business case for the road and to award a contract to build it at two meetings on Monday, June 7.

Council meeting

The full meeting of Norfolk County Council at the Norfolk Showground, where a decision was made to submit the business case for the Western Link to the government. - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

But Labour councillor Emma Corlett, backed by her party colleagues Terry Jermy and Maxine Webb, plus Green county councillor Ben Price, made a request that the cabinet's decision be scrutinised further.

That will happen at the council's scrutiny committee on Wednesday, June 23.

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Steve Morphew, chairman of Norfolk County Council's scrutiny committee. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Steve Morphew, Labour chairman of the scrutiny committee, said: "This is an important, complex and controversial issue. It has been called in by a number of councillors.

"Scrutiny committee does not have the power to overturn any decision made by cabinet, but councillors are able to ask the cabinet to review aspects of its decision.

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"I hope that we will have a full and sensible debate, because this is such an important issue for Norfolk."

Conservative council leaders have said the road, to connect the Norwich Northern Distributor Road to the A47, will boost Norfolk's economy and cut rat-running in places such as Costessey and Weston Longville.

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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.

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

Protesters voice their objections to the proposed Western Link road at the Norfolk Showground on Monday, June 7.

Protestors against the Western Link. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, said: “Scrutiny is an important part of the council’s democratic processes and the decisions taken last week represented a significant step forward for this key infrastructure project for Norfolk, so I understand councillors’ desire to examine this closely."

Once plans for the road are lodged, it will be the county council's own planning committee which will make a decision.

Council leader Andrew Proctor has said he expects the matter will end up being subject to a planning inquiry.

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