Timeline: A history of the Norwich Western Link

Western Link map

The Western Link would stretch from the A1067 Fakenham Road to the A47 west of Norwich - Credit: Simon Parkin

As the cost of the Norwich Western Link rises again, this is the story of how this point was reached.

2003

Parts of the Norwich Northern Distributor Road are open to traffic. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The Norwich Northern Distributor Road - Credit: Archant

It was back in 2003 that the idea for what was described as the northern 'relief road' was officially dusted down and put back on the table, about a decade after it was originally mooted.

At that point a number of routes were being considered, including joining up with the A47 at the west of the city, with a prediction that work could start in 2006.

But the hopes of a complete link were dashed, due to the River Wensum being a Special Area of Conservation.

It was concluded that there was no practical way to cross the Wensum Valley without having an effect on that area.

So, when it was built, the Norwich Northern Distributor Road stops at the A1067 Fakenham Road.

2016

Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council revives the so-called ‘missing link’, naming it as one of its top transport priorities.

Most Read

2019

The options for the Western Link. Councillors are likely to agree to Option C as their preferred rou

Option C was the Western Link route Norfolk County Council settled on - Credit: Norfolk County Council

A preferred route, between Weston Longville and Ringland was agreed by the council cabinet.

However, that route - route C - was not the choice of the public, who, in consultation, had said they wanted route D, which went nearer Norwich.

The preferred route was agreed by nine votes, with one abstention.

The abstention was from Bill Borrett, who represents Mattishall. He said people in villages such as Hockering, East Tuddenham and Swanton Morley, preferred option D.

The route includes a viaduct over the River Wensum and stretches from the A1067 Fakenham Road to the A47 near the Honingham junction.

2020

Concerns over bats were among the reasons for refusal of the paintball site scheme. Photo credit: C.

Barbastelle bat colonies were found on the route of the Western Link - Credit: C. Packman

Fears were raised by independent ecology experts Wild Wings Ecology that the route of the road would see construction going through what is likely to be the largest known ‘super-colony’ of 'near threatened’ barbastelle bats in the UK

2021

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council Member for Highways, Infrastructure and Transport. Picture: Dan

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport - Credit: Danielle Booden

The cost of the road was revealed to have risen from £153m to £198m.

The council submits its business case for the road to the Department For Transport, seeking 85pc of the funding for the scheme - £169m at that point.

In late November, the Labour and Green groups, along with the leader of the Liberal Democrats at County Hall wrote to the Department for Transport saying it would be an "environmentally and financially catastrophic" mistake to fund the road. 

But Martin Wilby, the county council's cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, was confident the council had made the case for the road to get government cash.

In December the council delayed the final round of consultation before the planning application was lodged because ecological surveys had yet to be submitted. The consultation had been due to take place in the autumn last year.

2022

Stephen Fry has appealed for people to be kind to each other during the coronavirus outbreak Pictur

Broadcaster Stephen Fry - Credit: Archant

Broadcaster Stephen Fry adds his voice to the campaign against the road. He was among 23 prominent local figures, climate experts and politicians to have signed an open letter against the plans. 

Norwich City Council also came out against the plans, saying it could promote car dependency. 

This was rejected by Mr Wilby, who said it would take traffic out of the city and bring about many associated benefits, including reducing carbon emissions from vehicles.

Gary Blundell, a town councillor in Costessey, launches a petition in favour of the route saying many people who live in the area want it to cut rat-running and congestion.

In February, the county council revealed it had been forced to change the route of the road, after surveys confirmed the presence of bats roosting in woodland near Ringland.

Officers said they would not have a figure for any cost changes due to the route shift until June's cabinet meeting. That was then delayed to July.