Will the Western Link go over its £153m budget?

The route of the proposed Norwich Western Link road

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

Questions have been raised about the costs of the Norwich Western Link (NWL) and if the scheme will now exceed the £153m budget.

On Monday, Norfolk County Council's Conservative-controlled cabinet was due to agree the business case for the road, which would connect the Norwich Northern Distributor Road from the A1067 Fakenham Road to the A47 west of the city.

The plans were withdrawn at the 11th hour due to a delay in appointing a contractor and will now be heard in June.

Labour’s Emma Corlett said commercial confidentiality was being used to withhold details of why the contract for the NWL had been delayed.

Labour Norfolk county councillor Emma Corlett. Pic: Archant.

Labour Norfolk county councillor Emma Corlett. Pic: Archant. - Credit: Archant

She said: “It is in the public interest and does not compromise any party if the cabinet member tells us whether the reason for the delay is that the cost of the scheme is likely to exceed £153m.

“Has the likely cost of the NWL now exceeded £153m?”

Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, refused to answer, saying: "Commercial confidentiality is an accepted requirement of any procurement process. This is to ensure that no party is given an unfair advantage or disadvantage.

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“While this process is still active, I cannot give any further details for the reason for the delay.”

Read more: Almost £2m of taxpayers' cash used to buy buildings along Norwich Western Link route

Councillor David Rowntree questioned if now was the time to explore alternative options to alleviating rat running in Weston Longville and Ringland, rather than “risk everything on an increasingly expensive and unpopular road scheme”.

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Mr Wilby responded that the council had been through a “very thorough” assessment and public consultation to determine the best solution for traffic problems west of Norwich.

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Labour councillor Dave Rowntree questioned if the council should be looking at alternatives for the NWL - Credit: Archant

He added: “I speak regularly to local parish councils in the area to the west of Norwich, who have a very good understanding of the day-to-day issues their communities face, and the overwhelming message I get from them is that they want us to get on and build the Norwich Western Link as soon as possible.”

The meeting also saw the cabinet agreed to an £18m investment in an offshore green energy campus in Great Yarmouth.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways and infrastructure. Picture: Simon

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways and infrastructure. Picture: Simon Parkin - Credit: Simon Parkin

The plans will see an initial £1m investment included in the project from the council’s 2021/22 capital programme and a further £9m funded from “prudential borrowing”.

The remaining funds will come from Great Yarmouth Borough Council, the government’s Getting Building fund and a pool of business rates.

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