Revealed: The preferred Western Link route recommended to connect Norwich NDR to the A47
- Credit: Norfolk County Council.
The preferred route for the multi-million Norwich Western Link is set to be agreed - and it's not the one the majority of people said they wanted in public consultation.
Norfolk County Council's cabinet will next week be asked to agree the route for the mooted road, which would connect the A47 to the Northern Distributor Road.
During public consultation over four routes for the road to take, the most popular route was Route D, which would have gone from the A1067 to the A47 near Easton or Taverham road.
That route, of about 3.8 miles, and the one nearest Norwich, would have cost between £166m and £178m and would have needed two viaducts, one over the River Wensum flood plain and one over the River Tud.
But officers are recommending that the cabinet backs the £153m Option C. That is a 3.9 mile road from the A1067, halfway between Weston Longville and Ringland, linking to the A47 at a new junction at Wood Lane, near Honingham.
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It would require a 720-metre-long viaduct over the River Wensum, but the council says discussions with the Environment Agency and Natural England have led them to understand an appropriately designed and built viaduct would be acceptable, even though the River Wensum is a special area of conservation and a site of special scientific interest.
The route would go through a county wildlife site and would lead to the loss of woodland, but the council says it would be mitigating that, planting trees and creating new habitats.
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The council says they would aim to achieve biodiversity net gain - so the project would leave habitats in a better condition than before construction.
Council officers said Option D did not stack up in engineering, environmental terms and economic terms as well as Option C - the second most popular choice in consultation.
Just under 74pc of those who responded to the council's consultation said they though Option D would provide a very effective or fairly effective Norwich Western Link, compared to 62.2pc for Option C.
Martin Wilby, the council's cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said he was convinced Option C was the right route - and welcomed how agencies had said a viaduct was acceptable.
He said: "It strikes the best balance with everything we need to take into account, limiting environmental impacts, having a high cost-to-benefit ratio, reducing congestion and rat-running on existing roads, minimising the impact on communities and properties, and receiving considerable support through our recent consultation."
Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: "There has been very careful assessment in terms of engineering, finance and the environment. That is really important in the decision making process.
"We have seen all the professional advice leading to us to get to this conclusion. It might not be the one the public said was the favoured route to them, but we have been asked to make a judgement call as to the best route."
If cabinet agrees the route on Monday, July 15, it will be submitted to the Department for Transport and a planning application lodged in 2021.
If permission and government funding is secured - and 15pc would need to be raised locally - then work could start in late 2022 and the road could be open by early 2025.
The road has been supported by organisations such as Norwich Airport, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, bus companies and local councils.
But the Green Party and Norwich South MP Clive Lewis have objected, while the Norfolk Wildlife Trust said it had concerns about the impact of the road on wildlife unless roper mitigation is put in place.