Embattled leaders at Norfolk County Council are pulling together fresh information they hope will prevent the controversial Norwich Western Link road being scuppered.

Officers at County Hall believe they can provide "further information" to government advisors Natural England to help secure a crucial environmental licence for the 3.9-mile road.

Because rare barbastelle bats, protected by law, have roosts on the route of the road the council needs a special licence to do anything which might disturb or harm them.

Dereham Times: A barbastelle batA barbastelle bat (Image: C. Packman)

Natural England told the council that, based on the information the authority has provided so far, it would be unlikely to award the licence - which would stop the road going ahead.

The council hopes providing new information to Natural England will increase the chances of the necessary licence being secured.

Dereham Times: A visualisation of how the Norwich Western Link would lookA visualisation of how the Norwich Western Link would look (Image: Newsquest)

A spokesman said: "The county council and Natural England are committed to continuing to discuss the issues with our aim being to find a solution, and we believe we can provide further information for Natural England to consider in support of this.

"Information on the surveys carried out for the project and how that has informed our proposals will be set out in the planning application documents which everyone will be able to view once the planning application has been published.

"The final bat licence would only be submitted should planning permission be granted and some of the information would only be finalised ahead of this final licence submission.  

"The project team will continue to discuss our proposals alongside and as part of the planning process with the aim of reaching a solution to enable Natural England to issue the final licence at the appropriate time."


The roosts of soprano pipistrelles, common pipistrelles, brown long-eared bats, Natterer's bats, Daubenton bats and barbastelle bats would be destroyed or disturbed by the road's construction.

The council previously changed the route of the road, but has been criticised by experts for under-estimating bat numbers.

Dereham Times: Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquartersNorfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters (Image: Mike Page)

Natural England's pre-planning application advice to County Hall said the council had an "incomplete understanding of the use of the landscape by bats" and "issues with surveys" meant advisors had "reduced confidence" in what impact the road would have on bats.

Natural England also recently stated barbastelle bats are not widespread enough in the UK to be awarded favourable conservation status.

Had such a status been confirmed, it would have made it easier to secure the environmental licence for the Western Link.


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

Kay Mason Billig, leader of Norfolk County Council, had slammed Natural England as an "unelected quango" which had "moved the goalposts" and was trying to "subvert the will of the people".

She wrote to environment secretary Steve Barclay urging him to intervene.

Dereham Times: Environment secretary Steve BarclayEnvironment secretary Steve Barclay

But the council, which has lodged plans for the Western Link, to connect the Northern Distributor Road to the A47 west of Norwich, with its own planning committee, has yet to get a response.


Meanwhile, the government has yet to confirm if it will contribute millions more to the cost of the road, should it go ahead.

The Department for Transport agreed to contribute £213m, but the council has been waiting to hear whether it will give a further £38m.

Mrs Mason Billig wrote to the government to seek clarity. Last month, she received a response from roads minister Guy Opperman, saying there were a number of details still to be "worked through" before any "specifics of uplifts of funding for schemes can be confirmed".

Dereham Times: Guy OppermanGuy Opperman

The council could have to borrow cash or dip into reserves to make up the shortfall.

Council leaders say the road will bring an economic boost, cut rat-running and reduce congestion and it has been backed by businesses and MPs.

But critics include the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Friends of the Earth and the Labour and Green groups at Norfolk County Council.

Dereham Times: Green county councillor Jamie OsbornGreen county councillor Jamie Osborn (Image: Submitted)

Jamie Osborn, Green county councillor, said: "The Conservative-run council has been playing fast and loose with millions of pounds of taxpayers' money.

"They have put huge stakes on pushing ahead with the road when they were repeatedly warned there was a high risk of it never going ahead."

Dereham Times: Protesters against the Norwich Western LinkProtesters against the Norwich Western Link (Image: Archant)