Too soon to say if NDR Western Link price tag will rise, council says

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

Council bosses say it is too soon to say whether the £198m cost of the Norwich Western Link will increase amid rising inflation and extra costs for material and labour.

The outline business case for the controversial road, which would connect the Northern Distributor Road to the A47 to the west of Norwich, has been lodged with the government.

Norfolk County Council is due to lodge a planning application for the with its own planning committee next year, but councillors have raised concerns over whether the cost of the 3.9 mile road could go up.

The road came under the spotlight at a meeting of the council's scrutiny committee on Wednesday (October 20).

Artist's impression of a viaduct which could carry the Western Link over the River Wensum. Photo: No

Artist's impression of a viaduct which could carry the Western Link over the River Wensum. Photo: Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Brian Watkins, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, asked what guarantee could be given, amid rising inflation and increased material and labour costs, that the road's price tag would not go above £198m.

David Allfrey, highway and major projects manager at Norfolk County Council, said: "We have to accept we have a spike at the moment in terms of inflation, but the key impact for the Western Link will be when it moves to the construction phase, and that's two years away.

"We need to be careful not to align the current inflation situation with what's more likely in two years time, which is a more stable position."

The Norwich Western Link would go from the A1067 and link to the A47 at a new junction at Wood Lane near Honingham, with a 720-metre-long viaduct over the River Wensum.

Fakenham Road where the proposed Western Link route would join just before the roundabout. Picture:

The A1067 Fakenham Road, which would connect to the Western Link. - Credit: Danielle Booden

A contract to build it has been awarded to Ferrovial Construction and officers say, because the contractor will also design the road, that reduces the risks to the council of the cost increasing again.

Most Read

The council had previously seen the price of the NDR rise because extra costs were added during the course of the contract.

The council says the road scores highly on value for money criteria used by the Department for Transport, while an extra £22m will be spent on further environmental mitigation, including more green bridges and tunnels for wildlife.

However, the road has been criticised by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the Norfolk Rivers Trust and the Norfolk branch of the Campaign To Protect Rural England over the road's impact on wildlife. 

And Green county councillor Jamie Osborn questioned the council's statement that there would be a net gain for biodiversity following the construction of the road.

Jamie Osborn, Green city and county councillor.

Jamie Osborn, Green city and county councillor. - Credit: Jamie Osborn

He highlighted the death of some 3,500 trees and shrubs which were planted along the route of the NDR and said the woodland which would be chopped down to make way for the Western Link could not be replaced.

He said: "You cannot replace trees which have grown for hundreds of years."

Mr Allfrey said the fact the council had replaced trees along the NDR which had died showed County Hall took its responsibilities seriously.

Tom McCabe, head of paid service at Norfolk County Council. Photo: Supplied

Tom McCabe, head of paid service at Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Supplied

Tom McCabe, head of paid service at the council, said the planning process would make clear how the authority would ensure that biodiversity net gain.

But Mr Osborn said: "You still haven't explained what it is or what you are planning to do."

The Greens are opposing the road, as is the Labour group at Norfolk County Council.

People who own woodland on the route have also expressed their concerns, as has campaign group the Wensum Valley Alliance.

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

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.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for highways and transport, said the road will cut congestion and bring an economic boost to the county.

Martin Wilby

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways and transport. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Another wave of consultation is due to begin soon, ahead of the submission of the planning application.

Officers said they were still finalising when that consultation will happen, but that they were hoping it would happen before Christmas.

The council's ambition is to submit a planning application early next year and, if that gets approval, to start work in 2023, with the road completed and open in late 2025.

Contractors are currently carrying out surveying work along the route of the road.

Harrison Geotechnical Engineering have been carrying out surveys in the Wensum Valley, the site of the Norwich Western Link.

Harrison Geotechnical Engineering have been carrying out surveys in the Wensum Valley, the site of the planned Norwich Western Link road. - Credit: Submitted


Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter