Potential date for start of work on ‘missing link’ of Norwich Northern Distributor Road is revealed
- Credit: Mike Page
Work on the so-called 'missing link' of the Norwich Northern Distributor Road could potentially start in 2023.
But it would depend on a whole host of hurdles being overcome, including a suitable route being identified, money for the project being found and permission being granted.
Efforts to make the link to the A47 to the west of Norwich a reality are being stepped up.
Representatives from almost 20 parish council have been asked to join a stakeholder group considering the potential road - now known as the Norwich Western Link.
However, critics have attacked the pursuit of the link and accused the council of trying to use the proposed food hub at Easton as a way to justify the need for it.
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Norfolk County Council recently named the link road, along with the Long Stratton bypass and the Great Yarmouth third river crossing as top road priorities in the year ahead.
Last summer the council agreed to make more than £400,000 available to explore how the NDR, currently under construction, could join the A47 to the west of Norwich.
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The fact the NDR will not, as it stands, has been a criticism of the £178.5m project.
A working group of county councillors have been working on reviving the missing link. It was previously ruled out because the cost of crossing the River Wensum – designated as a special area of conservation – was prohibitive.
Consultants Mott MacDonald were brought in to explore possible solutions and put forward 13 possible routes with costs of ranging from £28.3m to £102.5m.
And County Hall officers, who have been working with consultants Mouchel, have come up with a draft project programme which shows work could start in 2023, if money is secured, a route is identified and permission is granted.
Tim East, Liberal Democrat county councillor for Costessey, who chairs the working group, said: 'Progress on the feasibility study into the delivery of the proposed Norwich Western Link development is advancing.
'With Norfolk County Council identifying it as a top priority, the hope is that having gone successfully through all the procedural hoops, examinations in public and public consultation exercises, a start date for work could be provisionally set for around 2023.
'That will be only five or six years after the completion of the three quarter NDR.
'This Norwich Western Link Project, if successfully delivered, could form a complete northern bypass for the city and county'.
Later this month, a stakeholder group will be formed, with representatives from 18 parish councils, to help to gather evidence to 'inform the project'.
But Dr Ian Shepherd, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said he feared controversial plans for a food hub at Easton would be used to make the case for the link road 'by stealth'.
The first planned phase of that hub is on a 20-hectare site near the A47, linking the food and farming expertise of the nearby Norfolk Showground, Easton and Otley College, and the Norwich Research Park.
That has been criticised by neighbouring villages.
Broadland District Council is currently consulting over a 'Local Development Order' which would make it easier for relevant businesses there to set up or grow within the food hub zone.
However, Dr Shepherd said the food hub scheme was flawed and accused councils of trying to use it to justify the need for the link road - and secure funding.
He said: 'As a body, the CPRE opposes any route across the Wensum Valley on environmental grounds.
'The politics behind this, is that there is a lot off pressure coming on to get half of the food hub in the local plan and then get the other half, which comes under South Norfolk Council, in.
'They are hoping that will give leverage to make the case for the link road and to get funding.
'What annoys me is the way they do this away from the public gaze and that they try to do these things by the back door.'