Boon or burden? How Western Link plans could impact Dereham
- Credit: Norfolk County Council
The planned Western Link joining the Norwich Northern Distributor Road to the A47 will impact Dereham for decades to come, but not everyone is happy about the plans.
Norfolk County Council is making a business case for the controversial £19 million road with the government, and has agreed to award a contract to build it.
County council leaders say the scheme will boost Norfolk's economy and cut rat-running in places such as Costessey and Weston Longville.
But there are widespread concerns over the impact of building the road across the environmentally sensitive Wensum Valley.
Phillip Duigan, Conservative district councillor for Dereham Toftwood, said the link would be a boon for the town.
Mr Duigan, who is also on the town council, said: “It will be good for Dereham and good for Norwich. It will help business in Norwich but we also want some business to come to Dereham.
“Dereham could be a hub for start-up businesses who can’t afford Norwich prices - it could open up that whole sector.
“You would hope things will balance themselves out - perhaps there will be a bit more traffic going west (towards Dereham) in the morning and a bit more going east (to Norwich) in the evening.”
Mr Duigan said the link would open up the north of Norwich and north Norfolk’s towns and beaches to people around Dereham.
He said: “They say it will save you on average 19 minutes to get from Dereham to Norwich in the morning, but I suspect it will be more like half an hour.
“If you want to get to the airport from Dereham you have to go ‘cross country’ which causes rat runs and problems in villages, but this will make it much easier for everyone to get around the county.”
Mr Duigan said the next piece of the puzzle was to get the A47 dualled from North Tuddenham to Easton.
But Harry Clarke, Labour councillor of Breckland for Dereham Withburga and town councillor, said the Western Link would not be worth its cost.
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Mr Clarke said: “The economic benefits that it’s going to bring are highly questionable. It goes without saying that County Hall’s record of coming in on budget on various schemes doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence.
“But this isn’t just a case of the county council contributing their part to the large amount they will have to find if the scheme goes ahead.
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"Being a rural county there’s a stubbornness to the approach that County Hall is taking, especially for those who aren’t car users.”
Mr Clarke said he was concerned about the environmental impact of the scheme.
He said: “You can’t make up for removing trees that have been there for 100 years by planting a few new trees there.”
Mr Clarke said although he was opposed to this scheme, he did not object to development in general, and if the money was going to be put into A47 dualing or a rail link between Dereham and Norwich he would support it.
Philip Morton, a Green party councillor at Breckland who represents Dereham Neatherd ward, said he was opposed to it being built, and said it was "inevitable but regrettable".
Mr Morton said any benefits the new road could bring would be outweighed by the harm to the environment and increased carbon emissions it would cause.
He said: “I hope they restore the site so nature can take over.
“It is an awful lot of money to spend on a road that will just lead to more traffic.
“It will make travelling to Norwich more attractive for those people commuting to Norwich.
"But it could present an opportunity for some industries like the Amazons and Screwfixes of the world - the warehouse economies could use Dereham as a distribution hub.
“But my concern is that it will make it so much easier to go into Norwich, so Dereham has to transform into something.”
Jamie Grimson, manager of Hughes electricals in Dereham’s Nelson Place and chairman of the Dereham Retail Group, said he hoped the impact of the road would be evenly spread out.
Mr Grimson said: “It will make it easier for people in Dereham to get into Norwich. Hopefully it will also bring people from the other side of the A47 to Dereham - maybe instead of going into Norwich they will come around the city to the smaller towns.”
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