NDR Western Link

Woodland that would be completely destroyed by the Western Link credit Iain Robinson 1/1

Norfolk Wildlife Trust will strongly object to the planning application for the Western Link. Based on the evidence available, we consider that the proposal would result in the loss of significant and irreplaceable ecological features of national importance for which mitigation and compensation are not feasible. We cannot envisage how it would be possible to proceed with the road and comply with wildlife laws and planning policies, nor provide a net gain for biodiversity as stated by Norfolk County Council. 

A Western Link for the Northern Distributor Road (NDR) now called Broadland Northway, is being considered, which will link the end of the current NDR on the A1067 with the A47 near to Easton.

The landscape between the A47 and A1067 is a well-connected network of habitats that are important for wildlife, including ancient woodlands, grasslands and floodplains. These are not only along the River Wensum but also along the corridor of the River Tud and towards Easton.

The landscape contains many significant areas of importance for wildlife. The River Wensum is a site of international importance for wildlife. Several of the areas are designated as County Wildlife Sites, which are the best semi-natural habitats in Norfolk after nature reserves and SSSIs. Further areas are also in the process of being designated as County Wildlife Sites. The connection between the habitats is of particular importance in this area, for wildlife including bats, such as the barbastelle bat, one of our rarest bat species. The majority of the road design will not be available until after a contractor has been chosen.

We are very concerned about the potential damage by the Western Link to these important habitats and their connectivity and have been raising our significant concerns throughout the process at all levels. We will continue to do so with councillors, technical staff and the press.

Our letter to Department for Transport, including annex of letter to Norfolk County Council

   NWT letter to Department for Transport - Download   
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NDR news stories

2020-09-02 NDR Western Link: Norfolk Wild NDR Western Link: Norfolk Wildlife Trust will object
Wednesday 02 September, 2020
Norfolk Wildlife Trust will strongly object to any planning application for the Western Link and has written to the D...
2020-05-18 NWT reaction to conditional su NWT reaction to conditional support for Western Link road
Monday 18 May, 2020
Norfolk Wildlife Trust is dismayed to learn that central government support has been given to the Western Link road f...
2020-02-03 NDR Western Link - Net Gain is NDR Western Link - Net Gain is not enough
Monday 03 February, 2020
The inclusion of Defra’s targets for ‘Biodiversity Net Gain’ in Norfolk County Council’s prop...
2019-07-16 Grave concerns as Norwich West Grave concerns as Norwich Western Link route approved
Tuesday 16 July, 2019
On Monday 15 July 2019 Norfolk County Council approved option C as its preferred route for the NDR Western Link. The ...
2019-01-11 Western Link for NDR options a Western Link for NDR options are unacceptable, says NWT
Friday 11 January, 2019
None of the proposed routes for the NDR Western Link Road could be built without unacceptable damage to multiple impo...

Unacceptable wildlife impacts of the proposed Western Link

Bats

All UK bat species are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act and the Habitats Regulations. The negative impacts of new road schemes on bats are well documented, with a high likelihood that the habitat loss, severance of remaining habitat, reduction in habitat quality nearby and increased collision risks will lead to long term declines that can result in the extinction of local bat colonies. There is a very real risk that the road would lead to the local extinction of multiple bat colonies, which would be a clear breach of the Habitats Regulations and the Wildlife & Countryside Act. This includes the endangered barbastelle colony at Weston, which is likely to be of international significance due to its current size. The barbastelle bat is listed as Near Threatened on the red list. We would not consider any assessment of the impacts on a narrow 75 metre corridor around the road, as indicated in the interim survey reports, to provide sufficient information to inform the full scale of the impact on the colony and its core sustenance zone. 
Barbastelle bat, credit Christoph Robiller

Ancient woodland

Several of the woodlands in the surrounding landscape are included in the Ancient Woodland Inventory and there is therefore a risk that there are further areas of ancient woodland directly on the route or its zone of influence.

Ancient woodland is a rare and irreplaceable habitat and the full extent of ancient woodland habitat on the route and its zone of influence should be identified through detailed Phase 2 botanical surveys in order to properly assess the risk to this irreplaceable priority habitat. 
An area of woodland directly on the route of the Western Link, credit Iain Robinson

Chalk rivers and their floodplains

The UK holds a significant proportion of the world’s chalk rivers, and so holds a key responsibility for their conservation. The road would require crossing the River Wensum SAC, and would also result in the loss of County Wildlife Site floodplain habitats which are functionally linked to the health of the SAC. Whilst the focus appears to be on ensuring that adverse effects on the SAC are avoided, it is not clear from the information provided if the habitat loss, hydrological and pollution impacts on the supporting floodplain habitats adjacent to the SAC have been considered in assessing the long term impacts on the SAC. 

We also consider the River Tud on the southern edge of the proposal to be of equal ecological value to the River Wensum. Whilst it is not designated as an SAC, and only partially designated as a CWS, we believe it is of equal ecological value, and potentially of SSSI quality. It is also likely to suffer from in-combination effects from the A47 upgrades necessary to join to the Western Link, with cumulative impacts on habitat quality and its hydrology. In addition, the Western Link would need to cross a tributary of the Tud below Foxburrow Plantation, with likely additional hydrological impacts on the flow and water quality of the Tud.
The river Wensum floodplain, credit Jo Parmenter

No Net Gain

At present, the Council have included a target to deliver Biodiversity Net Gain as part of the proposal. This refers to a specific government policy in the upcoming Environment Bill which aims to deliver a mandatory net gain in the area of habitats that would otherwise be lost to development. Unfortunately this is different from achieving a real net gain for biodiversity as the new habitats created to meet the government policy are unable to support many key species which are dependent on old habitats such as mature woodland, such as the barbastelle.

We have written to Norfolk County Council to highlight that proposed new tree planting — regardless of scale — cannot replicate the mature woodland roosting habitats used by a significant colony of endangered bats on the route. NWT therefore strongly disagrees with the Council’s claim that a net gain for biodiversity can be delivered in this context.