Council leaders have rejected a call to refer their own £274m road scheme to the secretary of state for a decision, despite claims the move would save time and money.

The Conservative group at Norfolk County Council refused to support a request by the Labour group to ask local government secretary Michael Gove to 'call in' the controversial Norwich Western Link scheme.

Dereham Times: Michael GoveMichael Gove

County Hall has lodged plans for the 3.9-mile road, to connect the Northern Distributor Road to the A47 west of Norwich, with its own planning committee.

There is likely to be a legal challenge against the road, so Labour said the process would be sped up the council took the step of asking for it to be 'called-in' now.

Dereham Times: Kay Mason BilligKay Mason Billig (Image: Norfolk County Council)

But Kay Mason Billig, leader of Norfolk County Council, said she could not support the Labour motion.

She said: "Having spoken to officers, I do not see any reason why we should not go through the full planning process. To swerve from that might send out the wrong signals."

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Dereham Times: An artist's impression of the Norwich Western LinkAn artist's impression of the Norwich Western Link (Image: Newsquest)

A call-in is where the secretary of state takes over the determination of a planning application, rather than letting the council make that decision.

A planning inspector is appointed, who holds meetings to hear evidence and then makes a recommendation.

The secretary of state gets the final say and can agree with, or ignore, that recommendation.

The Labour group's motion was defeated, with 36 votes against and 15 for.

Dereham Times: Steve MorphewSteve Morphew (Image: Denise Bradley)

Afterwards, Mr Morphew said: "This is disappointing to opponents and supporters of the Western Link alike, but most particularly those suffering the rat-running blight.

"Instead of trying to speed things up by asking the secretary of state to intervene early with the almost certain planning inquiry, the Conservative council is happy with a long, drawn out, expensive, divisive and complicated process, that will probably anyway finish up in the secretary of state's in-tray.

"If you are a Western Link supporter that will add months, probably years, and millions to the cost.

"If you're an opponent or supporting a Plan B, as I am, this delays the work on alternative options and adds cost.

"Residents looking for a solution of any kind will be holding their heads in their hands."