Halstead: Hopes for bypass revived.

Halstead High Street

Halstead High Street

OFFICERS at Essex County Council have been accused of “being too quick off the mark” after hopes for a bypass around a market town were revived.

Earlier this month, members of Braintree District Council’s Local Development Framework Sub-Committee voted to delete plans for a relief road around Halstead from their development plan following recommendations from highways officers at Essex County Council, who said there was no money available to build the road.

The decision, which effectively meant there was little chance of it being built in the foreseeable future, angered campaigners who have argued for the A131 bypass for over a decade.

But last week, the cabinet member for highways and transport at Essex County Council, Derrick Louis, intervened and said he still wants to include the proposed route on the countywide Local Transport Plan. He said that the officers had sent out the recommendations prematurely and that they should have sought his approval before they advised against the bypass.

He said: “The report stated clearly that it was subject to the approval of a cabinet member and that wasn’t given at the time. While there is no funding available for the bypass at the present time, there is a long-term commitment to delivering it.

“Funding for capital schemes from central government become available all the time. We want to keep our options open. There will be capital money we can bid for and if we secure it, we will proceed.

The latest development means Braintree District Council’s Local Development Framework Sub-Committee are likely to meet again and review their decision in light of Mr Louis’ intervention.

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Chairman of the committee, councillor Roger Walters, said: “We are yet to receive the letter with the revised advice but when we do we will refer it back to the committee.”

County councillor for the Halstead area, Joe Pike, welcomed the u-turn and said the by-pass needed to remain on development plans because the town was likely to come under pressure from more traffic in the future.

He said: “ I am particularly pleased with what Derrick Louis has done. It is the councillors who decide on a change of policy and the officers were a bit to quick off the mark.

“I’d say more than half of people in Halstead are in favour of the idea of a bypass. It’s good that it will stay on the plan because things change. If Sudbury gets a western by-pass then Halstead will be the only town between Chelmsford and Bury St Edmunds on the strategic route that doesn’t have one.”

Halstead councillor Jackie Pell, who was instrumental in getting the idea for a bypass on the agenda during her tenure as town mayor, added “While the route is on the plans we are better placed to take advantage of any funding that becomes available.”

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