A HIGH Court challenge to the proposed route of the A14 Huntingdon southern bypass means the project is now 18 months behind schedule, the Highways Agency admitted this week. A new consultation process on the line of the road is expected in December and will not finish until early next year, more than 18 months after the original consultation closed on June 30, 2005. The Highways Agency is looking for ways to catch up some of the time, but an inevitable public inquiry could introduce further delay. It is now certain that the planned start of work in 2008\/09 will not be met, because of an objection to the line of route by villagers in the Offords who, while accepting that the new road is needed, do not want it, as one of them told The Hunts Post "in my back yard". In fact, the line of the original route is half a mile further from the villages than the present road is to parts of Brampton, Godmanchester and Fenstanton. The original proposal was to route the new road to the south of the old Buckden landfill site, crossing the River Great Ouse and East Coast main line railway north of the Offords before passing south of Wood Green Animal Shelter, between Hilton and Fenstanton to rejoin the existing route near Swavesey. That will be one of the options in the new consultation in December. Another will be the one the protesters said should have been consulted on. That runs through the tip and to the north of Wood Green, along the indicative route in the 2001 Cambridge-Huntingdon Multi-Modal Study - the line the Offords A14 Action Group insisted should have been in the first consultation. But there is absolutely no way the road will be built on this alignment. The tipped land is unstable and unsuitable. Reclaiming it would add millions of pounds to the cost of the \u00A3490million scheme. The Highways Agency did not include it originally, because it had no intention of building on it. The third option is expected to be a line running to the north of the tip and Wood Green - close to southern Brampton and new residential development in Godmanchester and up-wind of them. Although the agency has agreed not to make its preference known at the consultation, of the two routes that merit serious consideration The Hunts Post believes the southern route - the one the Offords object to - is likely to be far less damaging environmentally and to impact on far fewer homes and people. The Highways Agency's project team leader Mike Hall said this week that the agency hoped to appoint a contractor next spring to design the scheme, and subsequently build it. The improvement scheme - covering 22 miles from Ellington in west Huntingdonshire to Fen Ditton, north of Cambridge - is still scheduled for completion between 2011 and 2015, but it is now likely to be later in that period.