Preferred route recommendation for Norwich Western Link published
05 July 2019
Norfolk County Council’s Cabinet will be asked to agree a preferred route for a Norwich Western Link, one of the Council’s key infrastructure priorities, at a meeting on Monday 15 July.
The Norwich Western Link would provide a higher standard route between the western end of Broadland Northway (formerly the NDR) and the A47 and significantly improve travel between these two major roads. Traffic congestion, rat-running and delays to journeys are all significant issues on minor roads to the west of Norwich and there is strong support from the public, the business community, emergency services, local councils and MPs for a link road to be created.
The County Council published a shortlist of four potential road options for the Norwich Western Link late last year and carried out a public consultation on these options between November 2018 and January 2019. Having considered the consultation responses alongside other crucial information, such as transport benefits, environmental effects, value for money and impacts on local communities, officers at the council have recommended Option C, a new 3.9 mile dual carriageway road, as the best overall solution and preferred route for the Norwich Western Link.
Cllr Martin Wilby, Cabinet Member for Highways, Infrastructure and Transport at Norfolk County Council, said: “I’m convinced that Option C is the right route for the Norwich Western Link. It strikes the best balance with everything we need to take into account, limiting environmental impacts, having a high cost-to-benefit ratio, reducing congestion and rat-running on existing roads, minimising the impact on communities and properties, and receiving considerable support through our recent consultation.
“We are absolutely committed to creating this road in an environmentally responsible way and we’re aiming to achieve biodiversity net gain through its design by creating new habitats for wildlife and including features such as green bridges.”
Option C would link from the roundabout at the western end of Broadland Northway and extend for around 350 metres along the A1067 Fakenham Road before turning in a south-westerly direction via a new junction.
The road would cross the River Wensum on a viaduct and then continue at or near ground level for the remainder of its length. It would link to the A47 via a new junction at Wood Lane, which forms part of Highways England’s plan to dual the A47 between North Tuddenham and Easton. The total cost of delivering Option C as the Norwich Western Link, including inflation, is estimated at £153m.
The County Council is aiming to start construction of the Norwich Western Link in late 2022 and to open the road to traffic in 2025. Together with the A47 dualling between North Tuddenham and Easton, due to get underway in early 2022, this would create a fully dual carriageway orbital route around Norwich.
Norfolk County Council’s Cabinet is due to meet at 10am on Monday, 15 July to consider the report that recommends the preferred route for the Norwich Western Link. It will be webcast live on the County Council’s YouTube channel and a recording will be available to watch afterwards.
Protecting the environment
If Option C is agreed as the preferred route, the alignment and elements of the design would limit environmental impacts, but mitigation measures would also be put in place to minimise any adverse impacts and, where possible, enhance the environment in the area.
The aim of achieving ‘biodiversity net gain’ means the project would leave habitats for wildlife in a measurably better state than before construction began. This would be achieved through, for example, creating new habitats, planting and including features such as green bridges.
The project will have no adverse impacts on the integrity of the River Wensum Special Area of Conservation, which can be achieved through, for example, the design of the viaduct. We have consulted Natural England and the Environment Agency and they consider that if a new road is required, a new viaduct would be an acceptable solution subject to appropriate design and construction methods.
A Norwich Western Link Ecology Liaison Group is also being established, involving representatives from local nature conservation groups with the purpose of sharing information and ideas and providing in-depth local insight on ecological matters.
Wider transport context
There are ambitious transport plans for Norwich as part of the ‘Transport for Norwich’ initiative, with a focus on increasing public transport usage and supporting people to walk and cycle where journey distances are appropriate.
Part of the plan to improve the way people travel within the city is the need to provide adequate transport infrastructure so that those trips that don’t need to be routed through the city have viable alternatives, such as the outer ring road, associated radial routes and Broadland Northway. The Norwich Western Link would form part of this improved infrastructure.
In addition, Greater Norwich has been shortlisted as one of 12 city areas to apply for a share of the Department for Transport’s (DfT’s) £1.2bn Transforming Cities Fund. The fund aims to make it easier for people to access jobs, training and retail, and also aims to respond to issues around air quality.
In January 2019, Norfolk County Council, in partnership with Norwich City Council, Broadland District Council and South Norfolk Council, was awarded £6.1m from an initial £60m pot, which included funding for improvements to Norwich Bus Station, investment in the blue and green pedalway routes in Hethersett and Thorpe St Andrew, and car and bike share schemes. The TfN team are now working with DfT on detailed proposals in order to apply for further funding.
Complementary transport measures
One of the Norwich Western Link’s project objectives is to encourage people to shift the way they travel to use more sustainable forms of transport, such as walking, cycling and public transport.
The traffic relief the new dual carriageway road would provide on existing minor roads and through communities in the area would contribute to this by creating a more pleasant environment in which people could feel more confident walking or cycling. The Norwich Western Link will also provide opportunities for improvements in public transport routes and bus journey time reliability due to reduced traffic along existing routes.
Once a preferred route has been agreed, a package of complementary transport measures will be developed, designed to support people to transfer journeys, particularly those over shorter distances, from using motorised vehicles to travelling on foot or by bike.
Introducing traffic measures designed to limit the amount, speed and type of vehicles using the existing road network in the area will also be considered as part of the project.
An initial consultation on transport issues in the area to the west of Norwich was carried out in the summer of 2018. More than 1,700 responses were received in total. The consultation found there was very strong support for creating a new link, with 86% of respondents to a question about which options they wanted the council to consider in order to tackle transport issues in the area selecting a new road link between the A47 and Broadland Northway.
This strong support was also evidenced through the responses a consultation on a shortlist of road options in winter 2018/19. More than 1,900 people responded and 77% of respondents either agreed or mostly agreed when asked to what extent they agreed there was a need for a Norwich Western Link.
Through the same consultation, people were asked to select any of the shortlisted options they would support as a Norwich Western Link. People were also able to select ‘none of them, do nothing’ and ‘none of them, but something should be done’.
Of all the road options, Option D ranked as the most popular solution with Option C the second most popular. Option B was notably less popular and Option A the least popular. The ‘do nothing’ option received a similar amount of support as Option B and ‘none of them, but something should be done’ was the least popular choice overall.