'A monument to the folly of politicians who never got the memo on climate change': See reaction to Norwich Western Link announcement
PUBLISHED: 16:42 06 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:57 07 July 2019
Objectors to plans for a multimillion-pound Norwich Western Link connecting the NDR and A47 claim the recommended proposal shows scant regard for the environment or the threat of climate change.
Norfolk County Council's announcement of its preferred route for the link - which will connect the NDR, now known as the Broadland Northway, with the A47 at Honingham - led to uproar from protestors who say the road will cause significant ecological damage.
But others say the chosen option was the least environmentally damaging of those on the table and will offer much-needed relief for villages which have served as city rat runs for years.
The £153m Option C, the preferred option revealed on Friday, will run halfway between Weston Longville and Ringland through a county wildlife site and will require the construction of a 720m-long viaduct.
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis is vehemently against the proposal to build a Western Link, saying investment should be focused on public transport rather than cars.
"This road will be a monument to the folly of politicians who never got the memo about climate change and ecological destruction and future generations will mock the names that are attached to it," he said.
"Science is telling us we have to put ourselves on a more ecologically sustainable footing.
"Saying you want to build a road through a site of special scientific interest and that you also want to save birds and insects doesn't add up. There is a disconnect and I think a lot of people are now cottoning on to that.
"We were the first country to industrialise so we should be the first to make a move to a sustainable economy and this project, which is being done on the cheap and steamrollering through the Wensum Valley, is going to set back the biodiversity that Norfolk needs."
Denise Carlo, transport spokeswoman for the Norwich Green Party group, said: "The earth is experiencing a catastrophic loss of biodiversity and rise in temperature and Norfolk County Council is planning to make it worse by constructing a Norwich Western Link which would destroy important wildlife habitats for protected creatures such as water voles, otters and bats, and which would generate more traffic and carbon emissions.
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"If local politicians proceed with this road, they will be knowingly damaging the future for young people by adding to the destruction of the planet and its life support systems through their short term, out-dated attitudes on transport, society, economy and the environment."
But news of the preferred option has come as a relief to residents in areas such as Costessey, for which the link will effectively create a by-pass and alleviate its 60-year rat-running problem.
Tim East, town and county councillor for Costessey and former chairman of the Norwich Western Link working group at County Hall, said: "All those rat-running sufferers who have endured this kind of damage to their quality of life will see it eradicated at a stroke."
He said Option C was the least environmentally damaging and most likely to pass rigorous tests from Natural England and the Environment Agency.
"I understand the concerns of the objectors but the government has said they want to go carbon-neutral by 2050 and have electric cars by 2030. Achieving that ambitious target would be laudable, but electric cars will still need roads to run on and they will need roads that are fit for purpose," he said.
Council officers said the option which scored highest in the public consultation, Option D, did not stack up in engineering, environmental or economic terms.
The Option C route across the Wensum Valley will go through a county wildlife site and a site of special scientific interest and lead to the loss of woodland, but the council has previously said this would be mitigated through tree-planting.
Pamela Abbott, chief executive of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said: "We will be looking in detail at the impacts on biodiversity of this recommendation."
Norwich Airport, which is seeking to increase its passenger numbers from 500,000 in 2017 to 1.4 million by 2045, supports plans for a Western Link as it would provide improved road infrastructure for passengers travelling via the south and west of the city.
The county council said the route will also improve access to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, particularly for north and west Norfolk, which in turn will reduce emergency response times.
Both the hospital and the airport have written to the council in support of the Western Link proposals.