Orange route gains council's support as an A14 jam buster

THE future s Orange, as far as Huntingdonshire District Council is concerned regarding the new A14 southern bypass – but with a tinge of Brown. The cabinet decided last week to advise the council this afternoon (Wednesday) to back the Orange route – clos

THE future's Orange, as far as Huntingdonshire District Council is concerned regarding the new A14 southern bypass - but with a tinge of Brown.

The cabinet decided last week to advise the council this afternoon (Wednesday) to back the Orange route - closer to Offords and Hilton, and further from Brampton, Godmanchester and Fenstanton than alternative routes.

However, HDC has one exception and will push for the A14 to travel along a short western section of the Brown route, between Buckden and Ellington.

The same route - substantially the same as that in the original 2005 consultation that suffered a successful legal challenge by Offords villagers - is expected to be supported by Cambridgeshire Country Council and neighbouring South Cambridgeshire District Council. Local authority support for it - if it is chosen by the Highways Agency as its preferred route for the £639million A14 Ellington-Fen Ditton upgrade - should hugely shorten any public inquiry and shave millions of pounds off the cost.

Work on the road will not begin until 2010 at the earliest. It is unlikely to be completed before 2015.

HDC's decision will be a blow - though not an unexpected one - to Offord residents, who have campaigned vociferously against what they complain would be visual and noise intrusion from the Orange route.

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Yet, of more than 1,000 registered electors in the two parishes who feel so strongly on the issue, just 128 signed a protest petition, sources at the council revealed. The petition, calling on HDC to back the Brown route, will be presented to the council at the start of this afternoon's meeting.

Councillor Nick Guyatt, the cabinet's environment and transport guru, who has nursed this issue through HDC almost since its inception in the 2001 CHUMMS multi-modal study report, warned colleagues that any major scheme would inevitably have winners and losers. But it was the council's responsibility to back the scheme that generated the greatest economic benefit for the whole district and did least environmental damage.

For those whose lives were adversely affected, the council would urge the Highways Agency to mitigate the harm as far as possible.

If the Orange-cum-Brown plan is adopted, parts of Brampton, Huntingdon, Godmanchester, Hemingfords, Fenstanton and Fen Drayton will get some relief from the A14, but it will move closer to the Offords and Hilton - though they will still be upwind of it, minimising the noise effects.

"If there were to be no improvement to the A14, everybody would suffer economically and an enormous number of people would suffer environmental damage," Cllr Guyatt said.

And he insisted that whatever route was chosen should ensure separation of through traffic from local journeys.

HDC will press for a six-lane southern bypass, with the present viaduct over the East Coast main line railway in Huntingdon demolished to make way for a new town centre road system. That is estimated to reduce traffic on the ring road substantially and to remove most peak-hour traffic from Godmanchester.

If it did not go ahead soon, there were fears that businesses that had been attracted to Huntingdonshire by its good transport links, particularly the A1 and A14, would re-locate elsewhere, Cllr Guyatt said.

The Highways Agency had agreed to investigate the costs of moving the western end of the bypass - west of the A1 - further away from Brampton, rather than pay for noise attenuation measures for homes by a route closer to the village, he added.

The Environment Agency, which is responsible for regulating waste management, was totally opposed to the Brown route, which would involve major disturbance to waste at Buckden landfill sites, through the middle of which it would pass.

Cabinet will also continue to press for dualling of the A428 from the A1 to Caxton Gibbet (which will be used as a detour during the A14 works) and upgrading of the A1 between Alconbury and Buckden, which will carry long-distance north-to-east traffic when the Huntingdon railway viaduct comes down.

Councillors also fear major congestion on the A428 and on the A1123 between Earith and Huntingdon during widening work.

INFORMATION: This afternoon's HDC meeting, in the Council Chamber at Pathfinder House, St Mary's Street, Huntingdon, begins at 2.30pm.