An evidence-based battle for wildlife

Blog post by NWT and Dr Charlotte Packman on 29 Mar, 2023

Norfolk County Council will soon submit its planning application for the Norwich Western Link road. The coming spring will therefore be a vital time for us to speak up for the wildlife that depends on the tapestry of habitats threatened by the proposed route. 

Our two most powerful tools in protecting wildlife are accurate data and work in partnership with other bodies and the community. A solid base of evidence is crucial to effective conservation, whether we are improving habitat for wildlife or protecting a vulnerable landscape for its wild inhabitants.  

While the road will harm countless habitats and species, our research has focussed on the rare barbastelle bat, which is both legally protected and emblematic of the struggle to preserve the Wensum Valley. Growing evidence suggests that Norfolk holds vital strongholds for the barbastelle. 

Building a case for the bats, we are working with Dr Charlotte Packman, an experienced conservation scientist who has studied barbastelles in Norfolk for over a decade. To understand the impact of a major road through the Wensum Valley, Dr Packman has researched two key questions: the presence and activity of barbastelles in habitats along the route; and the effectiveness of measures put in place for bats along the existing Northern Distributor Road. 

Her findings are a stark warning to conservationists and developers alike, spotlighting the critical importance of Norfolk for this very rare bat and demonstrating that the Norwich Western Link would spell disaster for its survival. Dr Packman’s research has revealed the presence of many more barbastelles than Norfolk County Council ecologists have previously recorded, making the area even more important for the species. 

Dr Packman’s data suggest a minimum of 105 barbastelles are present in one of the maternity colonies. Norfolk County Council’s ecologists recorded just 27 barbastelles in the same colony. 

Her data also reveal the presence of a unique barbastelle super-colony in the area of the proposed road. The so-called super-colony comprises a number of large colonies of barbastelles and includes several woodlands supporting maternity colonies of vital importance to the survival of barbastelle bats in the UK. 

Norfolk is home to the majority of known barbastelle maternity colonies, making us the guardians of this species in the UK. 

Dr Packman’s data have also shown just how ineffective measures in place for bats along the existing NDR have been. This road development included structures known as bat bridges that, it was claimed, offered bats safe road crossings above vehicle height, from one area of habitat to another. Dr Packman’s data suggest that in fact barbastelles ignore these structures, preferring crossing points bordered by trees and overhanging vegetation, where they may be at risk from collision with vehicles. Alarmingly, her data suggest that barbastelle colonies present within 2.5km of the NDR prior to its construction have now disappeared. 


The area in red on the map shows the predicted impact on remaining barbastelle colonies, should the same outcome occur in the case of the Norwich Western Link. 

We have shared Dr Packman’s findings with Natural England, and we are pleased that, in response, the Wensum Woodlands have been added to a list of sites being considered for designation as SSSIs.  

Natural England’s criteria for designating a Site of Special Scientific Interest for barbastelles is the presence of a colony of 20 or more bats. 

Dr Packman’s research will continue this summer, as she gathers data in support of our opposition to plans for the Norwich Western Link. 

On account of the proposed road’s impacts on nationally significant wildlife, and to ensure an impartial decision is taken, we are calling for the planning application to be considered by the Secretary of State at a Public Inquiry.  

What can you do to help? 

Once the planning application for the road is submitted, a public consultation phase will follow. Please keep your eye on NWT emails and our social media for advice on speaking out in support of Norfolk’s wildlife, against this harmful development. 

To find out more about our campaign against the Norwich Western Link, please visit  

To hear Dr Packman explain her research to the Bat Conservation Trust, listen to the BatChat Podcast here.

Share this

Latest Blog Posts

Swifits - a bird on the brink Swifits - a bird on the brink
by Oscar Lawrence on 22 May, 2024
The black-crowned king of spring The black-crowned king of s...
by Oscar Lawrence on 01 May, 2024
We’re still hopping with hope for large marsh grasshoppers We’re still hopping with ho...
by NWT on 01 May, 2024
A reserves round-up for spring A reserves round-up for spring
by Reserves Officer Robert Morgan on 30 Apr, 2024
Volunteer Spotlight: David North Volunteer Spotlight: David ...
by David North on 23 Apr, 2024
 Norfolk’s lost lake is a haven for wildlife  Norfolk’s lost lake is a h...
by Robert Morgan on 16 Apr, 2024
A Siberian gem A Siberian gem
by Oscar Lawrence on 03 Apr, 2024
From our reserves: The return of a long lost stream From our reserves: The retu...
by Robert Morgan, NWT Reserves Officer on 02 Apr, 2024
Volunteer Spotlight: Poppy Bye Volunteer Spotlight: Poppy Bye
by Poppy Bye on 12 Mar, 2024
Last of the winter jobs on our reserves Last of the winter jobs on ...
by Robert Morgan, NWT Reserves Officer on 29 Feb, 2024
Hamza Yassin: Life Behind The Lens Hamza Yassin: Life Behind T...
by Oscar Lawrence on 27 Feb, 2024
Is the humble toad the real harbinger of spring?  Is the humble toad the real...
by Robert Morgan on 20 Feb, 2024
NWT employs stubborn old goats NWT employs stubborn old goats
by Robert Morgan on 20 Feb, 2024
Short-eared owls: their magic and majesty Short-eared owls: their mag...
by Oscar Lawrence on 12 Feb, 2024
Volunteer Spotlight: Tim Suiter Volunteer Spotlight: Tim Su...
by Tim Suiter on 05 Feb, 2024
Some old-fashioned care is needed in the winter Some old-fashioned care is ...
by Robert Morgan, NWT Reserves Officer on 02 Feb, 2024
Could a once abundant Norfolk fish become extinct?   Could a once abundant Norfo...
by Robert Morgan on 23 Jan, 2024
Wild is the wind Wild is the wind
by Robert Morgan on 23 Jan, 2024
Waxwing Winter Waxwing Winter
by Oscar Lawrence on 17 Jan, 2024
Volunteer Spotlight: Tricia Dolamore Volunteer Spotlight: Tricia...
by Tricia on 10 Jan, 2024
January on our reserves January on our reserves
by NWT on 04 Jan, 2024
Robin Redbreast Robin Redbreast
by Oscar Lawrence on 19 Dec, 2023
A Christmas Wish for Nature A Christmas Wish for Nature
by Robert Morgan on 18 Dec, 2023
November on our reserves November on our reserves
by Robert Morgan, NWT Reserves Assistant on 07 Dec, 2023