Extra cost from Western Link shift would fall on county council

Norwich NDR Western Link revised route

An indication of how the route of the Norwich Western Link will need to change to avoid roosting maternity bats. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

The cost of changes to the route of the Norwich Western Link will fall on the county council, rather than its contractors, leaders have confirmed.

Norfolk County Council officers need to devise an alternative route for part of the northern section of the £198m road, after surveys confirmed protected barbastelle bats roosts nearby.

Barbastelle bat

A barbastelle bat roost was identified on woodland along the route of the road. - Credit: C. Packman

The council says full details of how the scheme could have to change and any impact on cost will not be clear until June.

But, following a question from Labour group deputy leader Emma Corlett at Monday's cabinet meeting, it was confirmed any extra costs would fall on the council, rather than on contractor Ferrovial.

Councillor Emma Corlett

County councillor Emma Corlett, deputy leader of the Labour group. - Credit: Archant

Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said: "The latest alignment refinement is part of the design process and has been instructed by the council. Therefore, the cost of this work rests with the council under the terms of the contract, as it is a change to the original contract proposals."

Supporters say the scheme, to link the A1067 Fakenham Road to the A47 west of Norwich, will cut rat-running and bring an economic boost, although critics say it will damage habitats and increase car use.

The Conservative-controlled authority is waiting to hear if the Department for Transport (DfT) will approve its business case for the road - and contribute £168m towards it.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council Member for Highways, Infrastructure and Transport. Picture: Dan

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

Mr Wilby also faced questions about a letter councils got from the DfT, stating: "It is likely that we will not have sufficient funding to continue to fund all the schemes currently in the programme to the current scale or timing."

The letter asked councils and regional transport bodies to review priorities.

Green city councillor Ben Price. Picture: Norwich City Council

Ben Price, leader of the Green group at Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norwich City Council

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Ben Price, leader of the Green group, asked: "How is Norfolk County Council preparing for the likely eventuality that the DfT will not fully fund the Western Link?"

Mr Wilby said the council was working with Transport East - made up of local councils, Local Enterprise Partnerships and businesses across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex - over its response.

But he said: "There is currently no reason to believe that the support for the Western Link to remain part of their recommended projects, alongside other important infrastructure projects within Norfolk, has changed."