A11 Public Meeting

Just got back from the A11 Public Meeting called by Matthew Hancock our MP and Elizabeth Truss MP for South West Norfolk it was standing room only in a packed hall of, I estimated, about 150 people who turned out to heard Matthew and Elizabeth speak about their campaign at Westminster to get this scheme off the respective desks of Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for Transport and Teresa Villiers MP Minister of State for Transport and get the diggers rolling!

Guy McGregor Portfolio Holder for Transport at Suffolk County Council was on hand and spoke with knowledge and passion as he always does about the often difficult relationship the County Highways has had with the Highways Agency over the years and in particular with regards the final upgrade stretch of the A11. Suffolk Highway engineer Peter Grimm also spoke about the tecincal issues surrounding aspects of the proposed design.

Also on the platform was Lord Ivegh who spoke about the Elveden Estate and its important role in the local economy and their needs from the dualling as it cuts straight through his estate.

This scheme is of particular interest to me for a number of reasons, firstly I use the road frequently, get stuck in the traffic jams at the Barton Mills roundabout often and occasionally take my life in my hands as I cross over the road to go to Icklingham; secondly the road cuts through my Division and so I represent, at the County level, a large number of people who are effected by this road and desperately want to see it upgraded; and last but by no means least, I recall the great many years of hard work our former MP Richard Spring put into trying to get this stretch upgraded.

I, amongst a number of others, worked closely with Richard in the run up to the Public Enquiry last year trying to get the community groups who are so very disappointed with the proposed design not to object so that the road could be started before the coming cuts put the scheme in jeopardy.

My final words to a number of groups was ‘lets not object, lets get the road started and after we have all been to the opening ceremony, I would hold a meeting in Barton Mills Village Hall and I would chair the first meeting of the action group’ – to get the sort of improvements needed to make crossing the road safe for local residents and community groups such as the walkers and cyclists, at the time we all agreed that the Highways Agency scheme was wholly inadequate, but the point we were trying to make was to just get it built, warts and all, before the money ran out.

This fell on deaf ears and at the last count I think there were 36 different groups and organisations listed as objectors at the Public Enquiry.

Digressing as I am prone to do, the Highways Agency is for all intents and purposes a quango who whenever challenged about not being accountable repeat the mantra that they are answerable to the Secretary of State i.e. not local people nor the councils that represent them. I could blog a page on this issue but I think there is a real case for the Highways Agency to have to be accountable to Local Government as well as the Secretary of State, this would force them to truly engage with us and address our concerns, as they would have to do if a scheme was to be presented to the County and District Councils.

Thankfully the decision is at least back with the Secretary of State who is talking with Matthew and Elizabeth about it, rather than the now defunct faceless EERA who made a decision last time around to chose the Cambridge Guided Bus System rather than this scheme, and we all know what a success that has been!, I suppose it will be opened one day.

To some extent that is now ancient history, if the Inspector recommends to the Secretary of State to go ahead and the she has the money to build it then the road will be built as per the proposal before the Inspector or not as the case may be, in my opinion if the scheme is yet again put on hold it will be nothing short of an economic disaster for our area.

Once again at the meeting there was this dividing line between those who just want the road built warts and all and those who rightly criticise the design.

Matthew expertly drew the meeting to a close rounded with a vote for all those in favour of calling for the road to be built and built now, as opposed to those who want the scheme to be placed on hold until a better design can be agreed. The vote was almost unanimous with everyone in the room voting that they want the road now and asking how they help to lobby with only two people voting for the road to be redesigned.

Wherever I go across my Division people ask about the Public Enquiry and when will they start this vital dualling. I suppose we all wait to see it its funding survives the Comprehensive Spending Review’s necessary cuts and we get the road that is so vital to the economic success of our area, fingers crossed.

About askcolinnoble
I'm a Conservative politician-lite, I dabble a bit in Party Politics with my main focus of working hard and being a strong voice for my community making sure local government delivers quality services and fellow residents get value for money for their hard earned money they pay in Council tax | Where this Gravatar appears and I am expressing my views or liking something I do so in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the Conservative Party or come to think of it anyone else | But having said the above at an election time and to stay legal anything I write is promoted by Kerry Buist on behalf of Colin Noble, both at West Suffolk Conservative Association, Unit 8, Swan Lane Business Park, Exning, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 7FN

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