Your questions answered

About the NWL project

Throughout the development of Broadland Northway (formerly the Northern Distributor Road), there has been sustained local pressure for provision of a Norwich Western Link to connect the A47 to the western end of Broadland Northway to ease traffic problems in the local area and improve travel between these two major routes.

In summer 2018, we held an initial Norwich Western Link consultation to identify any transport problems that existed in the area to the west of Norwich and what, if anything, people thought should be done to tackle these problems.

The consultation had more than 1,700 responses and showed that there was very strong support for creating a new link between the A47 and Broadland Northway, with the majority of those responding suggesting a new road as their preferred solution.  Key transport issues identified by people through the consultation included slow journey times, rat running and roads not being suitable for the volume and type of traffic such as HGVs.

Broadland Northway is significantly changing the way the existing road network is used, however there are a range of other considerations that now also need to be considered.  These include proposals by Highways England to dual the section of A47 between Easton and North Tuddenham, the approval of a new Food Enterprise Zone at Easton.

In addition, across the county, there are plans to provide more housing and create more jobs to meet demand and match population growth and there is currently a separate local plan review underway to assess and confirm future targets for this. We believe improving Norfolk’s infrastructure is really important so that it can help make journeys quicker and safer, now and in the future.

We have now published four shortlisted options that could be a Norwich Western Link

We want to find the best possible option for a Norwich Western Link and this means we want it to achieve a number of different things.

We have developed objectives which will guide our work.  These comprise strategic objectives, which will ensure the project is aligned with local and national policy on planning and transport, and local objectives, which have been created with the help of local residents.

Strategic objectives

  • Support sustainable growth
  • Improve the quality of life for local communities
  • Support economic growth
  • Promote an improved environment
  • Improve strategic connectivity with the national road network

Local objectives

  • Reduce congestion and delay, and improve journey time reliability, on routes in the area to the west of Norwich
  • Improve network resilience and efficiency of the strategic and local transport network
  • Reduce the number of heavy goods vehicles using minor roads 
  • Make the transport network safer for all users (including non-motorised users)
  • Encourage a shift to more sustainable modes of transport, such as public transport, walking and cycling
  • Provide traffic relief (and reduce noise and emissions) within residential areas
  • Enable improved accessibility to existing and new housing and employment sites 
  • Improve emergency response times
  • Improve access to green space
  • Not affect the ecological integrity of the Wensum Valley Special Area of Conservation
  • Contribute to the improved health and well-being of local residents
  • Improve connectivity and access to Norwich International Airport, Norwich Research Park and Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital

We hope to get the majority of the funding for the project from the Department for Transport.

We have a good track record of attracting national funding for infrastructure projects in Norfolk, from Broadland Northway, the Third River Crossing in Great Yarmouth and improvements to the A47.

Some local contribution is also likely to be needed and there are various local funding options that may be available to us.

Highways England made their preferred route announcement for the dualling of the North Tuddenham to Easton stretch of the A47, west of Norwich, on 4 August 2017.  The alignment broadly follows the existing A47 single carriageway alignment, but moves the road slightly north as it passes Honingham and slightly south as it passes Hockering, crossing the old A47 at a point between Sandy Lane and Wood Lane.  This alignment has the potential advantage of retaining much of the existing local road network, which should therefore minimise the impact of the project during construction.

We have been in discussion with Highways England for some time about our plans to develop a Norwich Western Link and our proposed junctions with the A47 take account of the information that’s currently available relating to their plans for this newly dualled stretch of road.  Highways England are due to start work on dualling this section of the A47 in 2021.

We carried out an initial consultation in summer 2018 which received more than 1,700 responses.  A further consultation on our shortlist of options for a Norwich Western Link took place between Monday 26 November 2018 and Friday 18 January 2019 and we are currently considering these responses to help us identify a preferred route.  Once more work has been done, a further consultation on the preferred route will be carried out.

We are aiming to start construction in 2022, subject to all the necessary statutory processes being completed.

A planning application will need to made in accordance with the Planning Act.  At this stage, it hasn’t been determined whether this would be through the Development Consent Order process or the Town and Country process.

About the route options

In shortlisting these routes, we’ve factored in many different considerations including how a new road would tie in with the existing road network and landscape and practical constraints.  In the past, the A47 junction at Longwater has been mooted as somewhere a Norwich Western Link could join to that road, however this is already an extremely busy junction and it would not have the capacity to take the traffic from a dual carriageway road without causing significant additional problems.

Also, development and housing growth closer to Norwich in recent years means creating a new road in this area would impact on many more homes and businesses.  This together with the traffic capacity problem at the Longwater junction makes a route further east no longer viable.

We factored in these routes and the information associated with them for our work in coming up with a longlist of options this time.  However, we can’t ignore the fact that a lot has changed in this time, including housing development and growth.

One of the many factors we have considered in proposing these routes is minimising the impact and disruption of creating any new or improved roads on people living, working in and visiting Norfolk.

It is expected that creating a new junction with A1067, rather than adding an extra arm to the existing A1270 roundabout, will help to minimise disruption, for example if a new roundabout can be constructed away from the current road layout.

At this stage, the information relating to each of the routes is based on them not having any junctions other than those with the A47 and A1067, however, more work on this will be needed once we have a preferred route so it isn’t set in stone.

We carried out traffic modelling on all the routes on the basis of them being single and dual carriageway, to predict the likely levels of traffic using them in future years.  While the modelling showed other routes would carry enough traffic to justify making them a dual carriageway, Option A’s modelling showed significantly less traffic was likely to use it, largely because of it being further to the west.

This, together with the cost of dualling this longer route (including the A1067) meant that dualling this road wasn’t a viable option.

The current B1535 has a number of quite sharp bends and weaves its way from the A47 up to the A1067.  The upgraded route would be a much smoother line and a wider, better standard road so it would provide a more direct link that could cope with a greater volume of traffic.

Due to the impact on existing properties near the River Wensum bridge, this option also includes an alternative of a new viaduct crossing of the River Wensum to the south of Attlebridge, rather than using the existing crossing location.  Also, statutory environmental bodies have told us they would need to consider the potential impact on the River Wensum of widening the existing low-level bridge to create a dual carriageway.

Highways England are planning to dual the section of the A47 between North Tuddenham and Easton, with a start date for construction of 2021.  The new dual carriageway route is on a slightly different line to the current road and Highways England are proposing removing the existing roundabout at Easton, where the dual carriageway currently ends, and creating a new junction to the west of this to connect to Blind Lane and Taverham Road.

There is little information available at the moment on this new junction and, because of this, we have accounted for the possibility of the junction being located closer to the current Easton roundabout junction.  Further detail is likely to be made available during the next consultation Highways England will hold on the dualling of this section of the road.

The junctions with the A47 will be largely determined by Highways England who are responsible for this road and other trunk roads.  All the routes would need to join into the A47 at junctions that Highways England confirm for inclusion in the dualled section from North Tuddenham to Easton.

We do know that these junctions will be roundabouts, but whether they are ‘at grade’ (on the route of the road) or ‘grade separated’ (that doesn’t interrupt the dual carriageway by using slip roads at a different level) is unknown at this stage.  We are in regular discussion with Highways England about their and our plans and will factor in additional information from them when it’s available.

As for the junction with the A1067, once we have a preferred route, we will need to do more work to determine what kind of junction we will propose.  We will hold another consultation on the preferred route and this detail would be included in this.

Our longlist of options contained road and non-road options.  We then used a Department for Transport approved ‘sifting’ method to refine these and eliminate those that were not effective options based on a number of factors including how well they tackled the transport problems to the west of Norwich, deliverability and environmental impact.  Balancing all these factors, and reflecting on the outcome of the initial consultation in summer 2018, road options came out as the best option for a Norwich Western Link.

That being said, we are keen to make sure the Norwich Western Link encourages people to use other, more sustainable forms of transport such as walking, cycling and public transport.  So when we come to select a preferred route we will consider if we need to put in any additional transport measures that could complement this route.

The landscape, environment and other transport options

Our traffic modelling forecasts are based on the latest published data from the Department for Transport, looking forward to 2040 and beyond.  By this time there may be technological advances such as a shift to electric cars and self-driving cars, and more people working from home.  However, the timescale for these advances and the extent to which they will change travel behaviour is not yet fully understood so cannot be fully predicted at this stage.

As part of providing a Norwich Western Link, we are committed to minimising any impact on the environment.  We intend to hold ourselves to high standards on this – it’s what is expected of modern infrastructure projects but it’s also the right thing to do.

We have been liaising with Natural England and the Environment Agency about the possibility of creating a Norwich Western Link for some time and what potential environmental mitigation would be needed.  We will also seek opportunities to enhance the local environment, so that we can make a positive impact where possible.

There are numerous environmental and ecological considerations in the NWL study area, with designated sites including the River Wensum as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI),  ‘Ancient Woodland’ and several ‘County Wildlife Sites’.  Where possible the shortlisted options have avoided these sites, or our work has indicated that any impacts can be mitigated.

Following discussions with Natural England and the Environment Agency, agreement was reached that a bridge crossing of the River Wensum could be acceptable, but this would be subject to more detailed design and mitigation proposals.

We will comply with the Habitats Directive Regulations to demonstrate that any proposed solution crossing the Wensum would not adversely affect the integrity of the River Wensum SAC.

The bridges would have to be built high enough to ensure they clear the floodplains and to minimise the impact on the environment.  We expect the bridge over the River Wensum to provide around 12 metres (39 feet) clearance above the river.  However, because the bridges would be built in low-lying ground, we don’t expect them to dominate the wider landscape.  And we would look to merge any new bridges within their surroundings through planting and landscaping.

For Options A and B, we are considering making use of or widening the existing bridge at Attlebridge.  However, for the other, new crossings, we are proposing viaduct-style bridges and this is largely for environmental reasons.  The height of the bridges are dictated by the extent of the floodplains on either side of the rivers – we need to minimise construction within these floodplains because this could have a knock-on effect on where and how the river floods.

Higher bridge crossings are more likely to protect the state of the rivers and their ecology.  This is the case both during the construction phase, as supports would be built further from the river bed, and an ongoing basis due to them creating significantly less shade on the river and causing less disruption to wildlife than a lower bridge.

We are keen to make sure the Norwich Western Link encourages people to use more sustainable forms of transport such as walking, cycling and public transport.  So when we come to select a preferred route we will consider if we need to put in any additional transport measures that could complement this route.

We are keen to make sure the Norwich Western Link encourages people to use more sustainable forms of transport such as walking, cycling and public transport.  So when we come to select a preferred route we will consider if we need to put in any additional transport measures that could complement this route.

How will the NWL affect me, and what happens next?

All of the routes will take traffic off smaller existing roads in this area – where and how much varies from route to route.  Comparative traffic modelling data was made available when the public consultation on the shortlisted options launched on 26 November 2018, you can see this on p14-15 of the consultation brochure.

The time taken for the most likely journeys through the area are provided with each option in the consultation materials, so people can understand how the junction locations may affect their journey times.

As the A47 is set to be dualled by Highways England, there is only a small difference in journey times between the junctions indicated on our maps.  We expect this to equate to around two minutes if people are driving at an average speed of 60 miles per hour.

Highways England have announced their preferred route for the new dual carriageway section but they haven’t given any detail yet about how side roads will be affected, other than where their preferred junction locations are at Wood Land/Berrys Lane and Taverham/Blind Lane.

Highways England will consult people about the existing side roads and how they propose to deal with this in the future.

We will be writing to any landowners who could be affected by any of the routes before the consultation launches on 26 November.

It’s important to remember that we will only select one route as our preferred option for a Norwich Western Link and none of the routes are set in stone, so there is scope to amend them, particularly if we’re made aware of new or additional information as part of the consultation.

People were asked what they thought of all the options, including if they thought none of them would make a good Norwich Western Link, in our public consultation that ran from 26 November 2018 to 18 January 2019.  All the responses to the consultation will be considered and will help us identify a preferred route for a Norwich Western Link later this year.

People were asked what they thought of all the options, including if they thought none of them would make a good Norwich Western Link, in our public consultation that ran from 26 November 2018 to 18 January 2019.  All the responses to the consultation will be considered and will help us identify a preferred route for a Norwich Western Link later this year.  There will be a further opportunity to let us know your thoughts on our preferred route in the future.

We will gather and review the results of the consultation and use this, alongside other work, to help us identify a preferred route.  We expect to be able to announce this in spring 2019.

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