WIDENING and re-routing the A14 should now proceed without delay, after a High Court judge dismissed a village protest at a three-lane carriageway within a mile of their homes.

The Offords A14 Action Group now faces a legal bill of more than £40,000. Members may be ordered to pay the Department of Transport’s costs after their request for judicial review was turned dow

OFFORDS residents wanted the Highways Agency to re-consider the route of the A14 when they took their case to the High Court.

In April last year, when the Highways Agency launched its public consultation, residents were told that only one route was viable - and that differed from the preferred route proposed as a result of the Cambridge to Huntingdon Multi-Modal Study (CHUMMS).

In the action, led by Offord Cluny resident and solicitor Nita Tinn, residents asked Mr Justice Bean to order the Transport Secretary to reconsider its decision to push the altered CHUMMS route as the only option.

Residents claimed that, in August 2001, the original "preferred plan" for the scheme involved the road passing north of Buckden landfill site, Wood Green Animal Shelter on the A1198 and also to the north

of Offord Hill, meaning the hill would stand between the road and the villages.

However, in the consultation leaflets, the proposed route passed instead to the south of all three landmarks, bringing it on the same side of the hill and over one kilometre closer to the villages.

The opponents claim that they had a "legitimate expectation" that the alignment of the proposed new carriageway would be the subject of public consultation, and that the route shown in the preferred plan would at least have been one option included in that consultation.

At the hearing last month, their counsel, Paul Brown, argued that in so far as it was contended that the Transport Secretary had limited the scope of consultation for good reason - such as issues of cost, or his own view on the likely impact of the scheme on the villages - these were precisely the issues which should be decided following a proper public consultation and not in advance of it.

He claimed that his clients did not accept that it was impossible to construct the new road across the Buckden landfill site, or that such a solution would be prohibitively expensive.

Nor did they accept that the new route would be less damaging to the environment, or would not have a significantly greater effect on the villages.

However, rejecting their challenge, the judge said that the requirement to consult local opinion at a formative stage did not require consultation ahead of the decision to narrow down proposed routes to a single choice.