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£40m spent on Norfolk's 'doomed' Norwich Western Link road

New figures have revealed that Norfolk County Council has already spent almost £40m on the proposed Western Link, before a spade has even gone in the ground.

The amount includes fees on designers and engineers, as well as the purchase of land along the intended route, to the west of Norwich.

The council has disclosed the breakdown of costs days after County Hall announced it was winding down work on the scheme, because the Treasury has yet to decide if it will bankroll the bulk of the estimated £251m overall cost.

Opponents of the 3.9-mile road - who say it is environmentally and financially ruinous - say the figure shows the council is wasting money on the 'doomed' scheme and that it should be scrapped before more is spent.

But the council has insisted the project remains on track and the investment will pay off in the end, as the road will spur economic growth for the region.

In total, the council has spent £39.7m from its own coffers on the scheme since 2017.

The bulk of that money, some £36.2m, has gone on design, surveys and investigations connected to the road, which would link the A47 with the Norwich Northern Distributor Road.

A further £3.4m has gone on acquiring land.

Other money has been paid to utility companies ahead of work to divert water or gas pipes on the route.

Such work will now be paused after the council said it would "reduce levels of activity" on the scheme, because it is still waiting for the government to agree a business case for the scheme and fund 85pc of the costs.

The halt, to be ratified by the cabinet at a meeting on Monday (July 3), comes two years after the council submitted its initial outline business case asking for money from the government.

The case had to be amended in 2022 due to a route change and increased costs, triggered by the discovery of rare bats in the area.

Eastern Daily Press: The road's route was changed after confirmation of Barbastelle bats on its route

The road's route was changed after confirmation of Barbastelle bats on its route (Image: C. Packman)

With no sign of a decision from the government, critics believe the scheme will not happen - and have criticised the money spent so far.

Eastern Daily Press: Labour group leader Steve Morphew

Labour group leader Steve Morphew (Image: Archant)

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at County Hall, said the council should have thought of a Plan B long before this point.

He said: "It is an amazing amount of money to have spent, over an extended period of time, with nothing to show for it.

"In ordinary times, that is a staggering amount, but in the times we are now living in, you really have to wonder.

"It could have been spent on better things, such as upgrading existing roads and on public transport.

"And the absence of a Plan B means nothing is being done to stop the rat running which people to the west of the city are suffering with."

Brian Watkins, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: "It's a heck of a lot of money and this is now a millstone around the council's neck.

"It is time that the council should take a Plan B seriously, to give serious thought to how to help the people to the west of the city if this road is doomed."

Green county councillor Jamie Osborn, who branded the road as "disastrous", said: "It is unacceptable that the Conservatives are racking up bills of millions of pounds for a project that is increasingly unlikely ever to be built.

"People in Norfolk are desperate for better public transport and better maintenance on existing roads, but the Tories' blinkered obsession with the Western Link means these demands are being largely ignored."

The council says some £1.7m of its spending so far could be recouped by selling some land once the project is complete.

Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport

Graham Plant, the council's cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure, said: "It wasn’t unreasonable to assume that we would have received a decision from central government on our outline business case before this point.

"However, we know that other local authorities are in a similar position in waiting for a decision from central government on their infrastructure projects, and as it stands there is no reason to think that we won’t receive this funding commitment.

“We have made good progress on the project over the last few months and in proposing to reduce activity now, we will be well-placed to finalise the planning application documents as and when we do receive approval for the business case from central government."

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