Designing the A14 upgrade is all but completed, the scheme’s director has said.
Ian Parker, project director for the Highways Agency's £1.5billion scheme, said the final touches were being made to the Development Consent Order (DCO), or the finalised route design, which is due to be submitted to the Panning Inspectorate by the end of the year.
The last changes to be made, and the reason the DCO submission has been held off, were to the River Great Ouse crossing after an environmental assessment by the Environment Agency showed a planned embankment on the flood plain would increase the risk of flooding upstream.
Instead a second bridge over the flood plain, and a larger bridge over the river, have been incorporated into the design. People most impacted, those living in Godmanchester, Brampton, Buckden and the Offords have been invited to a series of meetings to see the new plans before they are submitted, starting tomorrow (Thursday, December 11) in Godmanchester.
Mr Parker told The Hunts Post: “We have taken on board some feedback from the Environment Agency which had concerns the flood risk would be increased on the flood plain. As a result we have come up with two structures instead of the multi-span viaduct. We still have two shorter embankments, but they don't have as much impact.
“There would have been a cost for the embankment which is taken out of the total difference and the new bridge will cost about £10-15million more, but overall it's not that significant to the total scheme.
“We've looked at which benefits the road creates and looked at the benefits against the cost and we believe the benefits will outweigh the costs as there is a lower impact to the environment from the improvement.
“Because of where it is, we are quite sensitive of the scenery so the design has to be attractive.”
He said the scheme is still on track to start work in 2016, as the next steps have timelines set out by law.
After the DCO is submitted, the planning inspectorate has 28 days to make sure the plans are compliant before the start of the pre-examination stage – expected to begin in May.
“Next year we will be working closely with the planning inspectorate as during the pre-examination stage the public will have another chance to have their say and there will be a number of hearings,” Mr Parker said.
“The inspectors have three months to write up the findings before making the recommendation to the secretary of state, who will make the decision in the first quarter of 2016.
“During the next year we will be working with designers for the detailed design, which contractors will advise as we want to design a road that can be built.”
The meetings are due to take place at: Queen Elizabeth Hall, Post St, Godmanchester, 5–8pm tomorrow (Thursday, December 11); Brampton Memorial Centre, Thrapston Road, Brampton, 5–9pm, Monday, December 15; Buckden Village Hall, Burberry Road, Buckden, 12noon-3pm, December 18; Offord Village Hall, Offord Cluny, 5-8pm, December 18.