The winners and losers from new-look A14

VILLAGERS in Brampton believe they will be the biggest losers from the A14 announcement, which includes widening the A1 to six lanes beside the village and adding four further lanes of A14 alongside. Part of the village is already an Air Quality Managemen

VILLAGERS in Brampton believe they will be the biggest losers from the A14 announcement, which includes widening the A1 to six lanes beside the village and adding four further lanes of A14 alongside.

Part of the village is already an Air Quality Management Area, which requires the Highways Agency to mitigate pollution from the combination of the A1 and existing A14. Re-routing the A14 to the west was supposed to be part of the solution, but the parish council believes it could make the problem worse because of the prevailing wind.

Elsewhere, however, two other AQMAs - in Huntingdon and Fenstanton - look set to be dealt with by the new road.

Brampton Parish Council is almost certainly set to become a formal objector, which will inevitably trigger a public inquiry.

Other objectors could include Offord Cluny and Hilton Parish Councils, both of which pressed the agency to adopt a route further away from their villages. Huntingdonshire District Council also wanted that part of the Brown route tacked on to the preferred Orange option, and the agency will come under considerable pressure to revisit those couple of miles at the very western end of the £640million scheme.

If it does not do so, the agency can also expect a statutory objection from Buckden Parish Council, which argues that building the Brown route western extension would make it far easier and less expensive for the A1 to bypass the village.

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The parish council's former chairman, Terry Hayward, who also chairs the council's roads working group, believes the council will also object to demolition of the existing Huntingdon viaduct. Buckden fears additional congestion with 20,000 extra vehicles a day on the approach to Huntingdon if that goes ahead.

HDC argues that demolition is absolutely crucial to the future economic prosperity of the two towns.

Brampton Parish Council's chairman Mike Shellens said the agency's decision not to prefer the western extension of the Brown route seemed "perverse".

He added: "It is a short-sighted expedient that will need to be unravelled at some stage in the future."

His colleague, County Councillor Peter Downes, was also bitterly disappointed. "This will bring 10 lanes of traffic to within 350 yards of the western end of Brampton," he said.

Hilton Parish Council will

discuss the preferred route announcement at its meeting next Monday, chairman Lissie Wright said.

"It's under a mile from nearly three sides of the village, more or less equidistant between Hilton and Fenstanton. We shall be pressing for maximum environmental amelioration."

Nita Tinn, chairman of the Offords A14 Action Group, which has been campaigning against the Orange route and successfully challenged the original consultation process in the High Court, said: "We are disappointed but not surprised by the announcement because the Orange route was supported by both Huntingdonshire District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council.

"However, because we are a group that represents the village, we will be holding a public meeting in December."

Other councils were much more supportive. Councillor Ian Bates, leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, said: "Our message to the Highways Agency is just get on with it. We really do want to see work actually starting in 2010."

Godmanchester's Town Clerk Madeleine Liddiard said councillors had not discussed the issue, but she expected them to be delighted.

At Fenstanton, new parish council chairman Bob Henderson said Christmas had come early for the village, which feared it had been threatened with widening the A14 on the existing alignment that already splits the village in two.

"For the majority, it will be the best thing that could happen."

Wood Green Animal Shelters welcomed the Highways Agency's about-face with its decision not to rule out a partial junction of the new road with the A1198.

* Hemingford Grey: constant traffic noise from the A14 has been a source of equally constant complaint in the village for many years. Moving the heavy traffic a mile further south will provide huge relief, which is likely to work through into property prices in an already-expensive village – good news for those who already own their homes, less helpful for families growing up in the village and wanting to stay there.

* Wood Green Animal Shelter: A question mark still lies over a possible partial junction of the new road with the A1198 just south of the shelter. Managers fear lack of a junction will impact severely on the charity’s commercial and fund-raising activities, and the Highways Agency is undecided on whether to include west-facing slip roads. A decision is expected before draft orders for the works are published early in 2009.

* Fenstanton: the village has had the worst deal of all from the A14, and the re-emergence last year of a rejected plan to widen on the existing alignment terrified many villagers. The road already cuts the village in two, adding a two-mile detour to the old road link with its twin village, Hilton. The relief in Fenstanton, where most homes suffer – some chronically – from road noise and many are polluted by oxides of nitrogen, is palpable. The noise will not go away completely, but it should diminish significantly for all but a few of the residents.

* Hilton: Villagers are disappointed in the choice of route, which they fear will be audible to more of the village than the Brown or Blue routes would have been. But it will be about a mile from the nearest homes in the village, and the wind is in the right direction. Hilton is conscious that its neighbour Fenstanton – the two villages have very close links – has borne the brunt of the A14 for decades and the A604 before it.

* Brampton: Fears 10 near-parallel lanes of heavy or rapid traffic will bring unacceptable noise and atmospheric pollution to the west of the village. The present polluted area of the village, near the racecourse, will get some relief, however. Villagers want the new road further west and the six-lane A1 built further away from the village.

* Huntingdon: demolition of the viaduct is a key component in plans for the town’s economic regeneration, including creating a specialist concept-to-prototype park at Hinchingbrooke to complement the blue-sky development work at Cambridge Science Park. Traffic reduction on the ring road and the loss of the viaduct should cure the nitrogen oxide pollution problem that plagues the town’s southern fringe.

* Buckden: Believes the Highways Agency has lost the opportunity to create space for an A1 village bypass in a few years’ time. Villagers also passionately believe that they will be disadvantaged by demolition of the existing railway bypass in Huntingdon, which they say will generate 20,000 additional journeys a day and make access to Huntingdon from the south-west nigh-impossible. They want the existing road retained as an alternative route, which they believe is a cost-neutral option.

* Godmanchester: Would have been the worst victim if the Offords’ demands had prevailed. Instead, the town will be relieved of the impact of the existing road at the north without its being replaced by a new one at the south. But the biggest gain for the residents will come from demolition of the viaduct, which will slash traffic volumes on its main streets and restore the character of the mediaeval town.

* The Offords: Villagers will be disappointed that the Highways Agency has ignored their pleas to route the new bypass further north. But the new road will be some distance from and downwind of the settlements. Moreover, thanks to two telephone calls from The Hunts Post when the original route was proposed in 2005, the viaduct over the River Great Ouse will be half the height originally planned. The impact of noise, light and air pollution is likely to be far less than the villagers feared.