Boon or burden? How Western Link plans could impact Dereham

The route of the Western Link.

The route of the proposed Western Link. - 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.  

Town, district and county councillor Phillip Duigan believes Dereham businesses have plenty to be po

Dereham councillor Phillip Duigan. - Credit: Archant

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. 

Iain Robinson's woodland where the proposed western link road would cut through at Ringland. Picture

Woodland where the proposed western link road would cut through at Ringland.   - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

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.”

Reader Philip Morton believes the Neighbourhood Plan could bring some welcome changes to Dereham Mar

Dereham town centre. The town is likely to be impacted by the planned Western Link, which will join the NDR to the A47.  - Credit: Ian Burt

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.

A driver was caught speeding at 107mph on the Norwich Northern Distributor Road.
Picture: ANTONY KE

Broadland Northway, also called the Northern Distributor Road or NDR - Credit: Archant

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. 

Town and district councillor Harry Clarke.

Dereham town and district councillor Harry Clarke.

“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.

Most Read

"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.”

Councillor Philip Morton raised concern about the space available for children's play.

Councillor Philip Morton. - Credit: Submitted

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.”

*How do you think the Western Link would impact Dereham? Email