Norwich Western Link
CPRE Norfolk opposed the construction of the Northern Distributor Road (NDR) for Norwich, on the basis that the extension beyond the A140 was not justified, and also warning that it would lead to ‘rat-running’ in the Wensum valley.
We note that at the time when planning permissions were being granted for the NDR, Norfolk County Council (NCC) did not promote any construction of the Norwich Western Link (NWL) “because of the environmental impact on the Wensum valley” (NCC website accessed on 03.01.18.) It is therefore with dismay that CPRE Norfolk observes that NCC has seemingly put these concerns to one side as the NWL has now unsurprisingly become part of its road infrastructure priorities.
Whichever option for the NWL is chosen, serious environmental damage and loss of countryside will result. Moreover, recent research shows that building new roads only leads to a long-term increase in traffic along with other negative impacts. These concerns should also be borne in mind as upgrades to the A47 are considered.
CPRE Norfolk urges that more consideration and a higher priority is given to a less intrusive highway system and other forms of local transport for the region: for example, rail and Bus Rapid Transit systems.
Our full position is explained below.
The Technical Report by WSP, dated October 2017, proposes the design and construction of a 660m bridge over the river and flood plain before reverting to a standard road construction for the remainder. WSP have narrowed the most suitable bridge options as a Steel Composite Box Girder Bridge; a Composite Steel / Concrete Twin Plate Ladder Girder Bridge, or a Constant Depth Trapezoidal Concrete Box Girder Bridge.
We believe that none of these options are bridges. They should be classified as elevated roads. The Norwich Southern bypass uses the same engineering concept over the Yare at Whitlingham. This has vandalised a beautiful view of the river and marshes as demonstrated by the photographs below. A 660m elevated road, even with piers at 73m centres, is not acceptable for the Wensum valley.
One important aspect not mentioned anywhere in the Technical Report is noise. Walk through Whitlingham and you will be appalled by the constant noise of traffic. The peace and quiet has been destroyed; do not let this happen again.
The main justification is stated to be local pressure to enhance connectivity between the A47 and A1067. We are not surprised that this is being cited by the NCC as the prime justification. After all the NCC deliberately contrived this position by promoting the unjustified extension of the NDR from the A140 to the A1067.
If closing the link is the primary consideration, why has the option of upgrading the B1535, which would not impinge on the Wensum Valley, apparently been ruled out?
The financial feasibility of the NWL is now linked to a study for a Norwich Western Quadrant (NWQ) Transport Strategy. To be clear: transport is a secondary consideration. This proposal is primarily to enable more land to be sacrificed to housing.
In its research on road building entitled “The End of the Road? Challenging the Road-building Consensus”, CPRE National Office commissioned research by Transport for Quality of Life (TfQL). This report reinforced the long held view that road building simply generates more traffic, leads to permanent and significant environmental damage, and shows little evidence of economic benefits to local economies.
We strongly endorse these findings and believe that other transport solutions should be considered which could achieve more beneficial long term outcomes for the locality and the county.
The NDR was progressed by NCC on the promotion of smaller elements disguising the fuller picture and overall costs. These elements were employment to create the Postwick Hub, extra housing and growth in the northern sector, and inevitably the NDR, on which the first two were dependant. The same arguments are now substituted to the Easton Food Hub for employment and to the Norwich Western Quadrant for housing and growth. Needless to say, both of these are reliant on the completion of the NWL. Always remember to look at the end game.
The Technical Report by WSP (October 2017) unsurprisingly recommends a need for further progress on design and feasibility studies. We will digest this report over the coming weeks but note three interesting “facts” already coming to light.
1. The report concentrates on the central corridor, ignoring several of the 13 options from the 2014 Mott MacDonald Scoping Report for the route of the NWL. This suggests a decision on the route has already been made without public consultation.
2. Budget construction costs just for a bridge are estimated at £161m, and for a tunnel £265m. These are greater than previous options, originally discarded as being too expensive.
3. The traffic calculations assume an additional 1,000 houses at Costessey, 2,000 houses at Honingham, and 1,600 houses north of Thorpe Marriot by 2036, with a further 4,000 houses at Honingham by 2050. This again would suggest that critical housing decisions have already been made before the GNLP public consultation in early 2018.