A NEW link road in Huntingdon town centre would take up to 40 per cent off the traffic away from parts of the inner ring road in the morning peak, a public inquiry was told yesterday (Tuesday).

The £10million project to link Brampton Road and Ermine Street already has planning and conservation area consent, but there were nine letters of objection – most of them now withdrawn or expected soon to be withdrawn – to the compulsory purchase order for the land needed and the related side roads order.

The outstanding objectors include Tesco, which owns the former Silent Channel site off Ermine Street, and developer Santon.

Barrister Peter Goatley, for Cambridgeshire County Council, the highway authority, said the one-way inner ring road created unnecessary traffic movements and imposed “a stranglehold on the present and future vitality of the town”.

Tesco had not objected to the principle of the ring road when it was considered by an earlier planning inquiry into the Huntingdon West Area Action Plan last year, Mr Goatley told the inspector, Christopher Millns, but the company was now suggesting alternative routes.

The alignment had not been criticised during that inquiry, and there was “a compelling case in the public interest that justifies interfering with the human rights of those with an interest in the land affected”.

John Clough, the county council’s project manager for the scheme, told the inspector that the present ring road discouraged walking, cycling and the use of public transport by creating a barrier between the town centre and the rest of the town.

The 0.5km link road, with traffic light-controlled junctions at each end, would reduce journey times and relieve congestion but would also involve the demolition of seven commercial properties and a pair of semi-detached houses, one of which was used as an office.

The objection from the one householder affected was expected to be withdrawn during the course of the inquiry, the inspector heard.

Mr Clough said the new two-way road would save 1.8km on ring-road journeys between Ermine Street and Brampton Road. Reductions in ring-road traffic volumes would vary by location and time of day, with the largest being 41 per cent on Nursery Road in the morning peak.

It would generate additional traffic on other roads, noticeably St Peter’s Road, but the increases would be well within their capacity.

One of Tesco’s three proposed alternative was not to build the link road. Given the development planned for the area, such a course would add significantly to travel times and traffic on Ermine Street, the ring road and the A14, he said.

The other two, on different alignments to the county council’s proposals, would both be more expensive and take more land. One would make a proposed car park unusable and generate road safety issues. The other would involve demolishing four more homes, make life more difficult for pedestrians from Stukeley Meadows and remove any possibility of providing a new access to the former Travis Perkins site, which the owner wishes to redevelop.

The inquiry, for which five sitting days have been earmarked, could be completed this week. Mr Millns will then report to the Secretary of State for Transport with his recommendations. The final decision will be for the minister.