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Anger as protesters barred from council meeting where favoured Western Link route was decided

PUBLISHED: 16:03 15 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:04 15 July 2019

Jamie Osborn. Pic: Jamie Osborn

Jamie Osborn. Pic: Jamie Osborn

Jamie Osborn

There was anger among Extinction Rebellion campaigners, after only a limited number of them were allowed into the public gallery for the council meeting where the Western Link preferred route was chosen.

Climate change campaigners protest ahead of Norfolk County Council's decision on the preferred Western Link route. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYClimate change campaigners protest ahead of Norfolk County Council's decision on the preferred Western Link route. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Campaigners had to pick a handful of their number to sit in the meeting, while others remained protesting outside.

And those who were arrested after occupying the council chamber at a meeting in February were not permitted in, on the advice of the police.

A county council spokesman said: "We took the police's advice not to admit people who had previously caused disruption at our budget meeting in February. Other campaigners were allowed into the building and sat in the cabinet meeting."

Jamie Osborn, a Norwich city councillor for Mancroft ward, was one of those arrested at February's meeting and said he had not been permitted in to today's cabinet meeting.

Mr Osborn said: "It's a meeting held in public, and to not allow members of the public into the meeting is disrupting democracy.

"There was no evidence we were going to disrupt the meeting and I wanted to be in there to see what they were saying.

"I think members of the public should have a right to enter the building. We are not violent and not setting out to disrupt for the sake of disrupting.

"But we want to make our point known and to do that we have to know what they are saying. It is obstructive to not allow members of the public into meetings."

Norfolk County Council's Conservative-controlled cabinet today agreed to £153m Option C as their favoured route for the road.

That is a 3.9-mile road from the A1067, travelling halfway between Weston Longville and Ringland, and linking to the A47 at a new junction at Wood Lane near Honingham.

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.

Officers had said Option C stacked up best in terms of environmental impact, value for money, support, transport benefits and impact on local communities.

During the meeting, Liberal Democrat councillor Steffan Aquarone asked why only a small number of Extinction Rebellion protesters had been allowed in.
Council leader Andrew Proctor said: "We have got security measures in place which are being followed."

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