Western Link Road will 'break wildlife law' ecologist warns

The route of the proposed Norwich Western Link road

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

The proposed Western Link Road cannot be delivered following wildlife laws, an ecologist has warned in an open letter to the council. 

The letter, signed by Dr Charlotte Packman, director of Wild Wings Ecology (WWE) and 10 others, including a senior lecturer at the University of East Anglia, highlights the impact the road would have on vulnerable barbastelle bats. 

Dr Packman said “[The Norwich Western Link] would be very likely to cause significant and sustained long-term damage to the Favourable Conservation Status of this nationally important bat population.  

READ MORE: Norwich Western Link - the story so far

“Therefore, it is our judgment that the road scheme as proposed cannot be delivered in compliance with wildlife laws.” 

Dr Charlotte Packman, director of Wild Wings Ecology. 

Dr Charlotte Packman, director of Wild Wings Ecology. - Credit: Wild Wings Ecology

The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) has supported the WWE survey, saying they have “significant concerns” about the road, and the available evidence suggests the impact on the bats cannot be “adequately mitigated or compensated for”. 

David Pett of the Stop the Wensum Link campaign group has called on the council to halt the scheme until the findings have been explored. 

He said: “It's time for the council to listen and to celebrate this amazing discovery rather than looking, as it has, to kicking it into the long grass.” 

Mr Pett called the BCT support significant and demonstrates it is too early for the council to sign any contracts. 

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This was echoed by Dr Iain Robinson of the Wensum Woodlanders group who called for the council to take account of the “growing weight of evidence” and scrap the road. 

A spokeswoman for Norfolk County Council said WWE had failed to provide supporting evidence, including the bat roost locations, and said they could not comment on related claims until they do.  

Iain Robinson in the woods he owns, part of woodland near Ringland, which will be affected if the we

Iain Robinson in the woods he owns, part of woodland near Ringland, which will be affected if the western link road to the NDR gets built. With him are his daughters, Miranda and Matilda. Pic: Denise Bradley. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

The spokeswoman added: “We are taking our environmental responsibilities very seriously.  

“We have carried out extensive bat and other ecology surveys across a wide area to the west of Norwich over the last two years, with further surveys taking place this year.” 

Dr Packman insists WWE has provided evidence, verified by expert ecologists, to the council. 

She said: “It is disappointing that the council is persisting in denying our independent findings, which clearly do not suit their narrative of being able to build the road at the proposed location in an ecologically responsible way.  

“If they were to build the road as proposed, the evidence strongly indicates that it would lead to the demise of the country's largest population of one of our rarest bat species.”