A14 inquiry may cost residents hundreds of thousands of pounds
COUNCIL Tax payers could be faced with bills running into hundreds of thousands of pounds to support the Highways Agency s plans for improving the A14 at a public inquiry. The inquiry is almost inevitable, with objections likely to be lodged by parish cou
COUNCIL Tax payers could be faced with bills running into hundreds of thousands of pounds to support the Highways Agency's plans for improving the A14 at a public inquiry.
The inquiry is almost inevitable, with objections likely to be lodged by parish councils and residents from Brampton, the Offords and Hilton. Buckden may also formally object to part of the £1.2billion proposals.
Work on part of the 22-mile route between Ellington and Fen Ditton is likely to start in 2010. With no objections expected to the plan to widen the existing road between Swavesey and Fen Ditton to six lanes and to build parallel local roads, no inquiry is likely to be necessary there.
But the stretch between Ellington and Fen Drayton, including a new southern bypass of Huntingdon and demolishing the existing flyover in the town, is more controversial.
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Brampton is worried about the new road and a widened A1 running so close to the western edge of the village that it will increase pollution. It also wants a new bridge over the A1 and A14 for pedestrians and cyclists. Buckden fears that demolishing the viaduct will increase congestion in Huntingdon and lead to difficulties for villages to the south-west in accessing the town.
And the Offords, which has already mounted a successful High Court challenge to the consultation process, and Hilton think the new road will be too close to their communities, adding noise, light and atmospheric pollution, even though they will be some distance from the new road and to windward of any pollution.
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Huntingdonshire District Council, which is generally in favour of the Highways Agency's plans for the Orange Route, has provisionally earmarked £250,000 for lawyers and expert witnesses to support its stance.
Although neither Cambridgeshire County Council nor South Cambridgeshire District Council has yet identified money for the public inquiry, expected to take place late next year, both stand behind the HA in principle. Little of the disputed route is in South Cambs, although much of the undisputed part is.
At stake for HDC are two significant issues: demolition of the viaduct is a vital ingredient of Huntingdon's town centre redevelopment, and HDC supports Brampton and Buckden in wanting the new road moved further to the west at Brampton, along the alignment of part of the Brown Route.
If those two parish councils were satisfied with HDC's position, they could save or share the cost of representation at the inquiry. If not, there could be more pain for Council Tax payers there.
If the county council rows in behind HDC, the two councils could reasonably share lawyers and witnesses. If not, CCC's legal costs are likely to be at least as great as Huntingdonshire's. South Cambridgeshire's are likely to be smaller, because the issue is much less controversial there.
And they will come on top of the multi-million pound cost to the general taxpayer of staging what could be a lengthy public inquiry, so that both sides can be satisfied that they have been fairly heard and their views properly considered.
Graham Hughes, director of sustainable infrastructure for the county council, said: "We are still assessing the extent of the role we will be playing in the inquiry and from that we will then make a final decision on what funds to budget for."
A Highways Agency spokesman said: "It is impossible to predict how much any inquiry will cost and how long it will take until we know what format it will take.