Norwich City Council support for NDR Western Link looks in tatters after Labour Party vote

Artist's impression of a viaduct which could take the Western Link over the River Wensum. Photo: Nor

Artist's impression of a viaduct which could take the Western Link over the River Wensum. Photo: Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Norwich City Council's 'in principle' support for the £153m Western Link of the Northern Distributor Road looks like being pulled, after Norwich Labour Party members backed their county counterparts who had opposed the scheme.

Norfolk Labour county councillors announced in July 2019 that they opposed the £153m road, which Norfolk County Council wants to build to connect the NDR to the A47 to the west of Norwich.

But, up to now, Labour-controlled Norwich City Council has adopted a more circumspect approach - that the road had its conditional support, dependent on a package of other transport investment and mitigation measures.

However, at a monthly meeting of the all members Norwich Labour Party on Friday night, a motion was proposed and passed that members supported the county group opposition the road.

It remains to be seen if the city council will now actively oppose the road.

But the county council, due to submit its business case to try to secure government funding for the road in March, can seemingly no longer count on City Hall's support for the scheme.

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council. Pic: Jeff Taylor.

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council. Pic: Jeff Taylor. - Credit: Archant

Alan Waters, Labour leader of Norwich City Council, said a fundamental change since the council had adopted its 'in principle'' support stance was that the county council had taken back responsibility for managing roads in the city.

Mr Waters said: "That really means we have no effective say on on any of the decisions on the Western Link at all - it's really the county's function.


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"So we're shifting to lobby the county council for funding on our own local transport plan ambitions, which our cabinet agreed to in December."

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at County Hall, said he was happy to support the city over that transport plan.

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group on Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

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He said: "The county council is the decision maker so we’re pleased support for our position of opposing the Western Link is gaining strength."

Green city councillor Jamie Osborne said: "I'm very pleased local Labour Party members have finally come out against this destructive and damaging road after years of campaigning from Greens and others.

Green city councillor Jamie Osborn. Picture: Jamie Osborn

Green city councillor Jamie Osborn. Picture: Jamie Osborn - Credit: Jamie Osborn

"Now this message has to get through to Labour city councillors who have consistently refused to oppose the road, apparently ignoring the evidence of environmental destruction and economic waste that their own members can clearly see.

"Green councillors will continue to push for the city council to actively take a stand for what this city really needs: better public transport, not more destructive and wasteful new roads."

David Pett, a member of the Stop Wensum Link campaign steering committee, said: "This is very significant - the political tectonic plates are shifting in Norfolk on this doomed proposal.

"The Labour administration at Norwich City Council must surely follow their members' steer now.

"It seems much clearer now that the lack of a cogent economic case and increasing concern over inevitable environmental damage  that more and more local councilors and the public are seeing the need for an immediate pausing and review."

Norfolk County Council has said the road, which would run between Weston Longville and Ringland to connect the A1067 Fakenham Road to the A47, would include a 720-metre-long viaduct over the River Wensum.

The council and supporters, including businesses and most of the county's MPs, say that the road would bring an economic boost and reduce rat-running.

Norfolk Chambers of Commerce previously described the scheme as the "final piece of the puzzle" to ensure Norfolk had infrastructure to meet the county's ambitions to grow.

They said it would bring easier access to both Norwich airport and Great Yarmouth port, improve journeys into and around the west of the city and support potential housing and jobs growth.

But critics, including Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Norfolk Rivers Trust have all raised objections, due to the impact on wildlife habitats and the landscape.

The CPRE says irreplaceable countryside will be lost if the Western Link is built. Picture: DENISE B

The CPRE says irreplaceable countryside will be lost if the Western Link is built. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

Independent bat experts, Wild Wings Ecology, have identified a breeding colony of barbastelle bats on the route, although the council says no such roosts have been identified in its own surveys.

The council has said there will be mitigation put in place and that the objective was to bring about a net gain for diversity, but critics have questioned if that is achievable.

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