THE cost of widening the A14 between Ellington and Fen Ditton, north-west of Cambridge, to six lanes – including building a new southern bypass for Huntingdon – has risen to nearly £640million. The scheme was originally costed at £490million in April 2003
THE cost of widening the A14 between Ellington and Fen Ditton, north-west of Cambridge, to six lanes - including building a new southern bypass for Huntingdon - has risen to nearly £640million.
The scheme was originally costed at £490million in April 2003 and, until now, the Highways Agency has said it was confident that would be the price the taxpayer would meet for free-flowing traffic on the only non-motorway element of Britain's strategic road network.
But new figures cost the scheme including the Orange Route for the Huntingdon bypass - the alignment originally consulted on by the agency before a legal challenge by villagers in the Offords - at £639million, the Blue Route at £640million and the unbuildable Brown Route through the unsettled tip at Buckden at £714million.
But variations to the Blue Route could reduce the cost as low as £617million - with serious environmental consequences.
In environmental terms, the Orange route, the one the Offords object to so strongly, is clearly the best, as The Hunts Post has consistently explained, particularly when cost is considered. There are no properties within 50 metres of it, just 14 within 300 metres, and none would need to be demolished to make way for it. It also involves the smallest land-take.
The cheapest option, which would include widening the existing road where it already cuts Fenstanton in two, would affect 463 homes and 46 businesses (including the huge Dairy Crest plant, a major local employer) and would mean knocking down five houses in the village.
But the biggest objections are likely to be on traffic management and air quality grounds.
Whereas further east - for example between Cambridge Services and Girton - traffic could use what will be new parallel local roads during widening work, the proposed local road in Fenstanton is actually the existing A14 - or the narrow ancient High Street. So there could be no effective diversions during widening.
Part of Fenstanton is an Air Quality Management Area because of pollution from the existing A14. The Highways Agency is required to take active steps to remove the pollution. Until last week those active steps meant moving the road further south into uninhabited farmland. If chosen, "Blue Variation 2" would make it far worse and would therefore arguably be unlawful. Parish, district and county councils would all be likely to oppose it strongly, prolonging any public inquiry and delaying the start of work still further.
But its introduction at this late stage is socially divisive. Other than the Offords, Hilton is the only village to have raised significant objection to the original route, even though it was around a mile distant from the village and to leeward of it, so would avoid most of the noise and atmospheric impact.
The cheapest option, which Hilton will instinctively prefer, would throw all the fall-out onto Fenstanton, which is environmentally already on the wrong side of the road.
Yet Fenstanton and Hilton are joined in a single ecclesiastical parish. Ironically, Grove House, the manor house built by Sir Lancelot ("Capability") Brown, who was Lord of the Manor of Fenstanton and Hilton in the 18th century, is at the centre of the worst pollution from the existing road.