By Sean Meleady

The people of Norfolk are rightly proud of the beautiful countryside and unique habitats that draw many tourists to the county. However, Norfolk’s environment and ecological sustainability are threatened by two planned developments located just outside of Norwich: the Norwich Western Link Road and a new housing development project near Thorpe St Andrew that threatens three local forests.

The proposed Norwich Western Link Road is a 3.8 mile two-lane road from Honigham, just west of Easton, to an area just north of Taverham. It will link the A47 west of Norwich to the A1067 Fakenham Road in the northwest, with the use of a new viaduct over the River Wensum. With the doubling of the A47 between North Tuddenham and Easton, this project would bring Norwich its first two-lane road orbiting the city.

Norfolk County Council says it is committed to building the road in an “environmentally responsible” manner, achieving a “net gain in biodiversity” by creating new habitats and improving existing ones. They pledged to avoid harming the Wensum River Special Conservation Area when designing the viaduct and established an ecological liaison group involving representatives of local conservation groups. They also argue that the road will help reduce traffic on existing roads.

as they continue with the scheme, which is estimated to cost £ 160million, they plan to cut the budget for adult social services and children’s services by £ 51million

However, Norwich Extinction Rebellion, Stop the Wensum Link and other campaigners oppose the project due to its cost, damage to the Wensum Valley ecosystem and a potential increase in pollution. They argue that this development is unnecessary, as there is an existing road (the B1535) connecting the northern distribution road and the A47, and that it opens the door to other harmful developments in the future. XR also convincingly demonstrates that the council has its spending priorities out of control – even if they continue this program, with its estimated cost of £ 160million, they plan to cut the social services budget by £ 51 for adults and children’s services. million over the next three years.

Norwich XR has been campaigning actively against the proposed route since 2018, disrupting a consultation event at the Forum in December of that year and occupying County Hall in February 2019. However, despite this action, councilors approved the project in July 2019, subject to planning. and funding.

XR has continued its campaign against the road relentlessly, partnering with groups such as Stop Wensum Link and Car Free Norwich. Campaigners recently organized a bike ride to drop a letter to County Town Hall urging County Council to oppose the development, followed by a visit to Town Hall to encourage Norwich City Council to do the same. Online, they’ve staged a social media storm and are encouraging locals to contribute to the ongoing public consultation on transport.

Campaigners protesting the Norwich Western Link Road outside County Hall.

The three forests of Thorpe Woods include 205 acres, forming the largest forested area in the Norwich region. In 2017, the Broadland District Council denied a request to build homes on the site, but developers at Socially Conscious Capital (SCC) successfully appealed the denial.

XR opposes tree cutting during a climate emergency and argues that construction work will contribute to CO2 emissions, both directly and by increasing traffic on surrounding roads, as well as by increasing traffic. risk of flooding. The Woodland Trust, Norfolk Wildlife Trust and other conservation organizations are also opposed to development, arguing that conserving existing forests is vitally important because of the wide range of benefits that woods offer. These include benefits for biodiversity, such as helping habitats adapt to climate change, and benefits for quality of life, such as contributing to public health.

XR activists used various tactics to protest the development of Thorpe Wood, including a ritualistic action of restoration and replanting in which they read a letter calling on Broadland Tory MP Jerome Mayhew, who also partly owns Thorpe Woods via the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust, reconsider plans. This was followed by the presentation of a letter opposing the development of Mayhew’s surgery to Acle in person and a socially distant memorial to the animal and plant species that will be lost if development continues.

In Norfolk as around the world, climate activists play a crucial role, not only in defending ecosystems and habitats, but in opposing inflexible and powerful interests. While XR has been rightly criticized for its inability to address inclusiveness issues, its contribution to this cause is significant. If the people of Norfolk are to preserve the biodiversity and beauty for which the county is famous, we need a sustained pluralist campaign against the conservative semi-feudal oligarchy that reigns in our corner of this island.

All images courtesy of Extinction Rebellion Norwich

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