Town condemned to death

THE Conservative-dominated Cambridgeshire County Council and Huntingdonshire District Council have both signed the A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton joint statement of support . These two bodies are supposed to safeguard the interests of local residents. Yet

THE Conservative-dominated Cambridgeshire County Council and Huntingdonshire District Council have both signed the "A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton joint statement of support".

These two bodies are supposed to safeguard the interests of local residents. Yet the document, of breathtaking ignorance and smugness, to which they have unthinkingly put their names, condemns Huntingdon to a slow, lingering death.

Those we elect are entrusted to protect us from the worst excesses of "experts". In this case they have been asleep on the job. They have failed us.

The document includes two killer phrases. The first is that the councils accept "the limited junction approach along the whole scheme". The second is that they accept without question the removal of the (East Coast main line) viaduct.

It appears that "limited junction" means three junctions between Girton and Fen Drayton, but no junctions at all between Fen Drayton and Buckden (roughly the same distance). So there is to be no junction at the crossing of the new A14 and the A1198 by Wood Green. We have seen this mistake before.

Since it has been built, the current A14 through Huntingdon has been endured by local residents who have been able to see, hear and breathe the road, but not get on it without a long detour via Godmanchester or Brampton. Apparently having learned nothing from the errors of the past, councillors are now supinely accepting the same indignity with the new road.

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Why are local politicians so indifferent to the needs of local people? Access onto the new road would provide some small recompense for all the noise and poison from fumes that we will have to suffer as 100,000 vehicles a day thunder by day and night.

As if that were not enough, taking down the viaduct over Brampton Road by Huntingdon station will create a massive problem for local traffic wanting simply to get into Huntingdon to work or shop. Already difficult at times, this will be made incomparably worse by vehicles coming from or going to the west, north or south.

They appear to expect westbound traffic from Fenstanton, Hilton, St Ives, Galley Hill and Godmanchester to go east down to the Cambridge Services at Swavesey, there to turn round to get onto the new A14 westbound. That simply will not happen. Instead, most drivers will come west along the old A14 to where the viaduct is now. There they will drop down to a new junction by the station on the same level as Brampton Road. The Highways Agency's own document admits that it is possible that traffic would move slower and there would be some delays.

Brampton Road is the only credible access into Huntingdon from Brampton, Buckden and the villages of the A14 Ellington corridor. Already traffic regularly jams back from the ring road to Brampton (over a mile) and at times almost back to the A14. This is because of poor access onto the ring road, the station lights and traffic from Hinchingbrooke School, the police HQ and the hospital. All this is before any further development of the Hinchingbrooke site, including the possible relocation of the technical college.

Into this already overloaded bottleneck they are now proposing to add all vehicles from Fenstanton, Hilton, St Ives, Galley Hill and Godmanchester whose drivers want to access the M6, the Midlands and North-West via Kettering, the M1, the North-East and Scotland via the A1 north, and Stevenage, Heathrow, the south coast, the M4 and the South-West via the A1 south.

It also applies to traffic coming to local destinations from all these places.

At present, much of this traffic goes over the top of the railway and Brampton Road on the viaduct. It will now have to fight its way through this key single bottleneck. The junction will become an effective road block. We can all anticipate what will happen.

Unless the powers-that-be do a U-turn and approve the A1198 junction, people will vote with their wheels. And, unlike Cambridge, Huntingdon does not have a world-renowned university to provide an essential core to the local economy. Employers will seek other locations where staff can get to and from work more easily. Shoppers will go elsewhere. Why bother to wait for ages to get into this town when other shopping and employment centres are better served?

To put the tin lid on it the "experts" who have designed Huntingdon's parking strategy say park-and-ride is not needed.

When the last real shop in Huntingdon is replaced with yet another estate agency because shoppers won't put up with the delays, when the last employer closes because employees are fed up with endless queuing to get to work, local Tory councillors will be able to look back to this document they have just signed so irresponsibly and reflect whether a little bit more vision and common sense in 2007 might not have saved our town.

This ill-considered statement of support will kill off Huntingdon slowly but surely.

MIKE SHELLENS, Huntingdon Liberal Democrats