Stop the Wensum Link campaign comprises ecologists, scientists, lawyers, academics and environmentalists, as well as many other concerned individuals, who are against the proposed Norwich Western Link (NWL) infrastructure project.
To prevent massive and irreparable damage to landscape, wildlife and habitats by the construction of the Norwich Western Link road.
If NCC are successful in building this road, they will:
- Build over the River Wensum, which is a designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI)
- Cut directly through what recent evidence reveals to be the UK’s only Barbastelle Bat super-colony, threatening the complete loss of this European Protected Species
- Directly impact ancient woodlands, fens and grazing marshes
- Increase traffic levels and carbon emissions
- Add to the cumulative impacts of all the above from other developments and road schemes in the Greater Norwich area.
The River Wensum is a chalk stream which rises to the north-west of Norwich and flows to meet the River Yare in Norwich. There are only about 200 chalk streams worldwide, so this is a very special habitat. It is the only river designated as an SAC (Special Area of Conservation) in the East of England.
The Wensum is also a Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the presence of rare species such as the bullhead fish, the brook lamprey, and white clawed crayfish, and many plant species including water crowfoot and water starwort. The river is also home to otters, kingfishers and many other fish, birds, mammals and insects
To give some idea of the River Wensum’s importance for our national heritage, in building terms it would compare with a Grade 1 Listed building such as Norwich Cathedral.
Woodlands in the Wensum Valley are home to the only known super colony of the Barbastelle Bat (a European Protected Species).
Recently released expert evidence reveals that the super-colony lies directly on the route of the proposed road
This map shows where the road would cut through the ‘core of the cores’: the critical area where Core Sustenance Zones of each barbastelle maternity colony within the super-colony overlap:
The Barbastelle Bat appears on the Red List produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
A super colony of these bats is a very exceptional find and one of great conservation value. The Wildlife and Countryside 1981 Act states it is an offence to ‘intentionally’ or ‘recklessly’ damage or destroy any structure or place which a bat uses for shelter or protection. The Norwich Western Link would destroy barbastelle bat roosts and feeding areas, and lead to deaths of bats attempting to cross the road.
Mitigation measures such as bat gantries or underpasses have been shown to work poorly, if at all, to preserve bat populations. Recently, the Northern Distributor road was built near barbastelle colonies. Those colonies can no longer be found. So, in this real world test, just a couple of miles away, mitigation measures failed to protect bats.
Summary of independent research on barbastelles in the Wensum Valley. This research was funded entirely by the public:
Old woodland such as found in the Wensum Valley is irreplaceable. Ancient trees are part of a complex ecological web and home to thousands of species, including fungi, lichens, insects, birds and mammals, such as the barbastelle bats. Planting saplings elsewhere would not make up for the loss of old established woodland as Norfolk County Council claim.
Today only about 9% of the UK land surface is wooded, usually in small, fragmented blocks. This is significantly less than most other European countries. So, the little woodland we have is especially precious.
The ecologists and conservation experts all come to one conclusion. Constructing this road would have a significant and irreversible impact on the integrity of the River Wensum SAC and on the long term Barbastelle Bat population numbers. They also conclude that no level of mitigation would significantly reduce the impact of the Norwich Western Link road.
The legal opinion, therefore, is that planning permission for the proposed road is unlikely to be granted.
We will use the money we raise to get preliminary legal advice, anticipating potentially having to take legal action against the council.
The money will also be used to obtain ecological consultant's reports, spread the word and get our case into the public eye.
Please give generously to preserve this jewel of Norfolk!
If we are able to raise more than we use, funds will be ring-fenced to cover any additional unforeseen legal costs, including any potential appeal, our wider costs for this case, and to support other local heritage, environmental or road campaigns in the courts and planning system.