The Norwich Western Link: The story so far
- Credit: Danielle Booden
As the cost of the Norwich Western Link is revealed to have gone up from £153m to just under £200m, here is a look at how this point has been reached.
When the Norwich Northern Distributor Road was originally mooted, almost 20 years ago, council bosses wanted it to link to the A47 to the west of Norwich.
But that idea was dropped due to the cost of crossing The River Wensum, a site of special scientific interest, with Natural England and the Environment Agency raising concerns.
That means the NDR, also known as the Broadland Northway, currently stops at the A1067 Fakenham Road.
However, the council always made clear it could revive that so-called missing link to the A47 and, in 2016, it was made one of the Conservative-controlled council's priorities.
Three years later, the council's cabinet agreed a preferred route for the road.
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That 3.9 mile road would go from the A1067, near the NDR, travelling halfway between Weston Longville and Ringland.
It would link to the A47 at a new junction at Wood Lane near Honingham, with a 720-metre-long viaduct over the River Wensum.
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Public consultation over the idea of the road was done in 2018 and further consultation on some elements of the scheme took place last year.
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.
However, Konectbus, which had backed the road has now switched to a neutral stance.
Norfolk County Council leaders say it would bring economic benefits and ease rat-running, while they would mitigate for any environmental impact.
But there is vigorous opposition. Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the Norfolk Rivers Trust have expressed concerns about the wildlife impacts of the chosen route.
Independent bat experts, Wild Wings Ecology, say the road would wipe out what they say is the largest barbastelle bat colony in the UK.
And owners of woodland on the route are also opposing the scheme, with the Stop The Wensum Link campaign group battling to prevent it.
The Labour and Green groups at Norfolk County Council oppose the road, while Norwich City Council withdrew its 'in principle" support for the road in January.
Lessons have been learned after the bill for the Northern Distributor Road rose, Norfolk County Council bosses insist.
The budget for that 12.5-mile road, also known as the Broadland Northway, went up from the £148.5m estimated in 2013 to £205m.
It led to months of wrangling with contractor Balfour Beatty between the county council over the cost of that road.
In 2017, Norfolk County Council agreed to add an extra £26m to the then £178.9m budget for the road.
Reasons for extra costs included: delays in getting the go-ahead to take the road over the railway line at Rackheath; design changes; increased land costs and having to spend more on diverting utilities, such as gas pipes.
Officers at County Hall say that, because the contractor for the Western Link will also design that road, it will reduce the council's risks and keep the price down A similar approach has been taken for the Third River Crossing in Great Yarmouth.