Next stage for Norwich Northern Distributor Road missing link to go ahead - despite accusations plan was ‘foolhardy and reckless’

The Wensum valley near Ringland. Pic: Simon Finlay.

The Wensum valley near Ringland. Pic: Simon Finlay. - Credit: EDP / Archant 2003

The next steps have been taken in the construction of the 'missing link' of the Norwich Northern Distributor Road, despite some councillors withdrawing their support at the last minute.

Jenn Parkhouse.
Photo: Simon Finlay

Jenn Parkhouse. Photo: Simon Finlay - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Norfolk County Council's environment, development and transport committee today (Friday) voted to spend £1m on preparing a business case for the western link, which would join the NDR to the A47.

But Labour members opposed committing the cash against a backdrop of the council having to make £125m of savings.

Terry Jermy, who represents Thetford West, said they should not go ahead whilst the NDR was still being built and the benefits of that road were not yet known.

'It will be overspent, we don't know how much by but we do know it will be considerable,' he said.

Stuart Clancy. Photo: Conservatives

Stuart Clancy. Photo: Conservatives - Credit: Norfolk Conservatives

'It would be foolhardy and reckless to endorse this proposal.'

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He also said it was difficult to reconcile the spend while at the same meeting they were being asked to make cuts to public transport.

This view was shared by Jenn Parkhouse, of the Wensum Valley Alliance.

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When councillors approved plans she said: 'It's disgusting, it's exactly the same amount of money you are taking away from bus services, so you're already raiding other budgets.'

Stefan Holmes and Benny Tye keeping the grit bins filled in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Stefan Holmes and Benny Tye keeping the grit bins filled in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

In cuts also approved at the meeting, £500,000 will be slashed from the public transport by 2022, and another £500,000 will be saved by reviewing bus services supported by the council.

Stuart Clancy, Conservative councillor for Taverham, said: 'I'm extremely disappointed in Terry's statement as he has supported this project. This is a hugely important project for the benefit of Norfolk.'

He said good infrastructure was key to stopping businesses leaving Norfolk. He added: 'This is an example which every single political party should support. We did have every party up until this morning.'

Although two councillors voted against the recommendations, 10 voted for, with one abstention.

More information will now be drawn up, with part of the work looking at how the link will cross the Wensum Valley.

A report seen by councillors said a £160m viaduct carrying a dual carriageway over the valley, has been assessed as being 'high value for money'.

Martin Wilby, committee chairman said: 'The Norwich Western Link is a vitally important project for the whole of Norfolk – by improving transport links to the A47, the west of the county and beyond it will help attract further investment, accommodate growth and prevent rat-running on smaller roads.

'We need to keep up momentum on this project to show we mean business and to make sure that, subject to it going through all the necessary statutory stages, we can get construction underway as soon as possible. We have a potential 'on the ground' start date of 2023, which feels a long way off but for a project of this size and complexity there is a lot to do before we get to that point. I'm pleased the committee recognised the need to keep progressing with the project so this timetable remains possible.'

Grit bin filling saved

Some £100,000 more than expected will be cut from spending on highway maintenance as councillors grappled with a long list of savings.

Norfolk County Council's environment, transport and development committee voted through the cuts yesterday.

These included reducing funding available to grit the county's roads by £200,000. And £180,000 will be saved by scrapping the concession which allows people to throw away a certain amount of DIY waste at recycling centres for free. But the provision of filling grit bins for free has been kept - with the £100,000 which would have been saved instead being added to the £200,000 already earmarked to go from the budget for 'non-safety critical highway maintenance'.

Concern had been raised by Costessey Town Council, who said the costs of filling and re-filling the bins would be passed on to them and their portion of council tax would have to rise.

In total of £4.1m in cuts was approved by the committee.

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