Your questions answered
Throughout the development of the current Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR) project, there has been sustained local pressure for provision of a Norwich Western Link (NWL) to connect the A47 (west of Norwich) to the A1067 (Fakenham Road) to ease traffic problems in the local area and enhance strategic connectivity.
The completion of the construction of the NDR will significantly change the way the existing road network is used. A key test for the need for an intervention such as the Western Link will be in part dependant on what happens to traffic movements once the NDR is opened. However, there are a range of other considerations that now also need to be considered. These include the proposals by Highways England to dual the section of A47 between Easton and North Tuddenham, the approval of a new Food Hub at Easton/Honingham, and the wider Local Plan Review.
Feedback from communities within western quadrant is that they are concerned about increasing levels of traffic and the impact this has on their communities and quality of life. They are also concerned about the possible impact they think the NDR will have once it is completed and opened.
The Western Link is seen as an important intervention to remove these concerns. It is an important point to note however that the impact of the NDR will need to be based on actual monitored data, which will not be available until after a period of traffic redistribution following the opening of the new road. EDT committee agreed in October 2017 to continue with vital technical work that will inform the options and alternatives to the scheme that will be put out for public consultation in autumn 2018.
The first step in the process is to establish a range of options that meet the project objectives. As part of the consideration of the options, the project costs for each will need to be reviewed. These costs will be reported to Committee in due course as part of developing the preferred solution and subsequent outline business case for the project.
A Norwich Western Link would provide a completed circular route around Norwich, taking traffic out of congested city suburban areas, radial routes and the western sections of the outer ring road and help reduce ‘rat-running’ in villages to the west of Norwich. Other benefits include:
- Improving journey time reliability from Norwich to the west and north of the county
- Improving transport links to the A47 and beyond to the Midlands
- Creating capacity for planned jobs and housing growth and improve linkages between these
- Helping to encourage investment into Norfolk and encouraging economic growth
We are committed to examining all the options available. The technical work commissioned during 2018 will enable us to asses those options rigorously with the aim to develop a set of preferred options that will be taken through a public consultation process.
The study area also includes the Wensum Valley and a number of environmental designations, including a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), designated due to its international importance in biodiversity conservation. The River Wensum, running through the study area, is designated as both an SAC and as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
We are therefore very mindful of the impact a Norwich Western Link could have on the Wensum Valley and, as part of the technical work, detailed environment assessments following industry best practice and standards will be completed to understand the environmental impact of any options considered. This will also include an assessment of any mitigation and enhancement measures that can be embedded into the design of any proposed scheme to address any potential environmental impacts.
The NWL area incorporates a mixture of land uses, including rural farmland, parkland, the River Wensum, River Tud, residential areas and business/retail uses.
An assessment of all the land ownership parcels to understand the scale and number of land owners will be undertaken for all options considered. Further work would explore land ownership based on an identified/preferred corridor alignment to demonstrate a more accurate scale of land parcels affected by the final proposed Norwich Western Link scheme.
The funding strategy for a NWL is yet to be defined and work to develop this will need to form part of any future stages of work, however, initial consideration of potential funding sources has been undertaken and this is summarised below.
The DfT has previously offered local authorities the opportunity to bid for funding from a Local Majors fund, which aims to provide funding for large, transformative, local schemes that are too big to be taken forward within Local Growth Deal allocations and might not otherwise be funded. Access to the funding is becoming increasingly competitive and schemes must demonstrate there is a compelling need for intervention through the preparation and submission of a business case following the DfT funding criteria.
It is unknown whether the DfT will offer another round of applications for Local Majors funding, however, the need for a robust business case is considered necessary to ensure the council is well positioned to respond to any future opportunities.
Notwithstanding the above, in summer 2017 the transport secretary, Chris Grayling announced that new funding may be made available to allow English councils to apply for funding paid for out of vehicle exercise duty to help councils enhance or replace important roads to support the economy, increase productivity and tackle congestion.
In addition to these potential funding sources which may provide the opportunity to apply for large contributions towards a NWL there may be other, smaller funding opportunities such as the National Productivity Investment Fund which may provide the opportunity to support the delivery of any complementary measures and schemes.
Local Authority funding
It is likely that any NWL scheme would require a contribution from the Local Authority and their partners, this could include:
- Integrated transport block funding through the Norwich Area Transport Strategy (NATS)
- Pooled Business Rates funding
- Growth Deal funding through the New Anglia LEP
- Credit arrangements under the prudential borrowing powers from the Local Government Act 2003
The details of local funding mechanisms would need to be clarified if the scheme is progressed further.
Third party contributions
Given the scale of growth that could come forward across the Norwich western quadrant it may be possible to seek third party contributions from the private sector through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and Section 106 contributions from developers.
It is very important we provide good facilities for walkers and cyclists (and all non-motorised users). As with the NDR we would look at improving and enhancing the facilities available. The NDR created new paths running alongside the new road allowing people to walk and cycle from one end to the other without having to use the road itself.
A member working group has been overseeing the work being undertaken and has reported to Committee on a regular basis. The key project activities being delivered by WSP have been discussed, as well as other project details including the A47 dual carriageway proposals between Easton and North Tuddenham and the Local Development Order for the proposed Food Hub at Easton.
Highways England (HE) made their preferred route announcements for this project 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. At this time the junction strategy has not been provided and this is to be developed as part of the detailed design work which will be consulted by Highways England during 2018.
It is therefore still unclear what impact the A47 dual carriageway project will have on the Western Link, however it is becoming more defined and the preferred route alignment does retain the connectivity due to its location on the north side of the existing A47 between Easton and Honingham. Further work by HE is ongoing and this will also provide further key information for the Western Link project. It is clearly significant, and NCC will continue to work closely with HE as these details are developed.
Broadland District Council (BDC) has progressed a Local Development Order to help facilitate a Food Enterprize Zone (FEZ). The FEZ is located to the west of Easton village and just south of the existing A47. FEZs are a government initiative introduced by the Dept for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), with the aim to:
- Enhance rural development through the growth of food businesses in a particular location, be it producers, processors, retailers and/or manufacturers
- Encourage greater collaboration between food and farming businesses, and even encourage links to research and education institutions, in order to develop the domestic food and farming sector
- Allow local decision making, particularly for planning and development
- Attract inward investment
The LDO is being progressed to provide planning permission and allow greater flexibility for new business-related development to locate within the site. The proposed LDO was considered at BDC’s Cabinet meeting on 23 May 2017, where it was agreed to be adopted subject to the outcome of a Screening Direction from the Secretary of State and a Section 106 obligation. This process has now concluded and the LDO has been made.
There will be a number of opportunities to give us your views on the Norwich Western Link. We are planning two major consultation exercises in 2018 and there will be plenty of chances to speak to officers and talk to us about your concerns, issues or alternative ideas.
We have and will continue to have regular engagement with the key statutory environmental bodies, the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural England (NE).
The meetings with NE and EA have highlighted a range of issues to be addressed:
- Concerns about the potential effects of the tunnel option upon groundwater flow which could compromise the Water Framework Directive objective for the groundwater body. This could become a 'showstopper’ for this option.
- Highway runoff is likely to require a high degree of treatment to both remove common highway pollutants, but also to provide adequate emergency provision
- It was queried whether salt spray could result in an impact upon the Wensum and this will require additional assessment
- Smaller, thinner piers are preferable from the perspective of flood water attenuation and this should be considered as the design progresses
- Greater information on the construction process should be included in any future optioneering
- A significant number of species surveys are likely to be required in order to provide sufficient information to inform the assessments
- Opportunities for environmental enhancement should be sought.
In summary, both the EA and NE were supportive of the progress that had been made with the proposals since consultation in 2016, although continued liaison during the development of options and prior to the adoption of a preferred alignment is recommended.
The impact of the NDR will need to be based on actual monitored data, which will not be available until after a period of traffic redistribution following the opening of the new road. This will help inform the developed of a set of preferred options for the Norwich Western Link. Part of this work will also look at reasonable alternatives including improvements to the existing road network and the predicted impact.
EDT committee agreed in October 2017 to continue with vital technical work that will inform the options and alternatives that will be put out for public consultation in autumn 2018.