Fakenham MP backs 'gold plated' Western Link project
Fakenham's MP has backed plans for a major new road project in Norfolk, even as critics branded it “gold plated” and overpriced.
Norfolk County Council wants to build a 3.8 mile dual carriageway to link the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR) with the A47 to the west of Norwich.
And a string of possible changes to roads and footpaths along the route have been revealed – after fresh consultation on the controversial £153m route began on Monday.
The county hall’s Labour group have criticised the scheme’s value for money and warned of “inevitable overruns and delays”.
But Broadland MP Jerome Mayhew welcomed the project as “essential” to help solve the rat-running “blighting” Norfolk.
He said: “The council has undertaken extensive consultation on which route to adopt and the chosen route was found to be the best in terms of its impact on local communities, environment, value for money and benefits it will provide to local transport links and safety, by removing rat runs between the A47 and the NDR.
“Rat-running and congestion have clogged up minor roads and blighted communities to the west of Norwich for years now.
"It’s a situation that isn’t good for anyone – residents, commuters or businesses.
"I think it’s essential the Norwich Western Link is created to finally complete a dual carriageway orbital route around the city that can help people and goods get where they need to go safely and efficiently.”
But Steve Morphew, leader of the county council's main opposition Labour group, said: “The road is already estimated at £25,000 a metre.
"For that price you’d expect it to be gold plated, but it doesn’t even include lots of other costs or take account of inevitable delays and overruns.
“We seriously question the value for money compared to many other less environmentally and climate damaging schemes.”
He added: “Post-Covid we can’t just do same old, same old without rethinking our priorities.
“We’re coming out of lockdown with different perspectives on travel to work, the value of clean air and environmental protection.”
However, Martin Wilby, the council's cabinet member for transport, said: “The Western Link is considered a high value for money project, according to the Department for Transport’s own criteria.
“The estimated cost includes all elements we need to factor in, including inflation and proposals we’re asking for views on.”
He said: “A combination of population growth and the need to support our key industries which rely on good transport links, such as tourism, agriculture and manufacturing, means investing in infrastructure projects like the Western Link now is vital to the county’s future success.”
The eight week Local Access Consultation will run until Sunday, September 20. People can see information and respond via www.norfolk.gov.uk/nwl.
People can also request a consultation brochure and paper questionnaire are posted to them by ringing 0344 8008020 or emailing email@example.com
More by this authorJessica Frank-Keyes, Local Democracy Reporter
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