Wildlife trust seeks special status to protect NDR Western Link bats

Barbastelle bat

A barbastelle bat - Credit: C. Packman

A wildlife trust is calling for the government to give areas on the proposed route of the Norwich Western Link special status - to protect barbastelle bats.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust is asking the government's nature conservation advisors to urgently designate the area a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation.

Norfolk County Council wants to build the £198m Western Link of the Norwich Northern Distributor Road across the Wensum Valley, from the A1067 Fakenham Road to the A47 near Honingham.

The route of the proposed Western Link. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

The proposed route of the Norwich Western Link. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

But ecologist Dr Charlotte Packman, from Wild Wings Ecology, has identified a super-colony of barbastelle bats in the area.

Her research featured on BBC Countryfile at the weekend, prompting Norfolk Wildlife Trust to reiterate opposition to the road and to call for extra protection.

Eliot Lyne, chief executive of Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Eliot Lyne, chief executive of Norfolk Wildlife Trust - Credit: Danielle Booden

Chief executive Eliot Lyne said: "Dr Packman’s independent scientific research, as seen on the programme, provides very strong evidence that this area is crucial for the long-term survival of barbastelle bats in the UK.

"We are calling on the government’s nature conservation
advisors to urgently designate the area as both a site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation.

"This will provide the resident bat colony vital protection from future developments such as the proposed road."

Martin Wilby, the council's cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure, said: “While we can’t base our proposals on designations which aren’t currently in place, we are taking a really rigorous approach to our proposals for the project which is being informed by the evidence we have gathered over three years of extensive surveys as well as national guidance and advice from statutory environmental bodies.

"We’re planning to put in significant environmental mitigation and improvement measures as part of the project, such as installing green bridges and wildlife underpasses, and creating and improving habitats across a wide area, which is likely to include woodland and wetland."

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He said the council needed to strike a balance between providing infrastructure while protecting the environment.

Norfolk County Council is waiting to discover if its outline business case for the 3.8-mile road will be backed by the government.

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