MP's warning over new road plan

A RURAL idyll stretching across mid Essex is threatened with devastation and “urbanisation” because of a major new trunk road planned for the area, an MP has warned.

A RURAL idyll stretching across mid Essex is threatened with devastation and “urbanisation” because of a major new trunk road planned for the area, an MP has warned.

Braintree MP Brooks Newmark has hit out at the Highways Agency's proposals to improve the A120 between Braintree and Marks Tey by building a new dual carriageway southern route which villagers claim would devastate both the wildlife and rural way of life for those living in the area.

The proposals have seen residents at loggerheads with the Highways Agency over the issue not only because of the southern route proposals but also because of the way the agency consulted the public about its plans.

Mr Newmark claimed that, under the proposals currently favoured by the Highways Agency, wildlife would be threatened, planning restrictions loosened and traffic problems remaining unsolved.

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Villagers in Cressing have already raised fears about a proposed southern route for a new stretch of the A120, which would start near the Panners Farm roundabout before cutting through Tye Green close to Cressing.

The Cressing A120 Action Group is fighting the Highways Agency proposals, which are yet to be completed and sent to the Department for Transport.

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The Government has pledged to look at alternative routes, to study the environmental impact of any suggested schemes and said the consultation document produced by the Highways Agency left “something to be desired”.

In an adjournment debate in Parliament, Mr Newmark said: “The real fear that residents have is that the effect of the road would be to weaken planning restrictions in the area, resulting in comprehensive urbanisation of the protected Blackwater Valley.

“Large scale engineering works will necessarily impinge on previously untouched areas of the Blackwater Valley.

“It seems quite clear that the landscape and its wildlife are at risk from this new intrusion, and only recently a survey by the Essex Wildlife Trust has identified a specific threat to both rare bumble-bees and otters, as well as a variety of endangered bird life, along the proposed route.

“For those who aren't agitated by the impact that roads have on bees and otters, there is another serious threat to contend with and that is flooding.”

Mr Newmark also raised concerns about part of the existing Braintree bypass being made redundant and that, under the current proposals, traffic would have to negotiate three roundabouts in order to get onto the proposed road at a fourth junction which would be built in countryside close to Tye Green.

The Tory MP's criticisms of the proposed changes to the A120 were yesterday backed by the Cressing A120 Action Group, which has raised the possibility of legal action against the Highways Agency if the proposals go through.

Bob Barrett, spokesman for the group, said: “We congratulate Braintree MP Brooks Newmark for securing the adjournment debate that took place in the House of Commons on the issues surrounding the Highways Agency's proposals for the improvements to the A120 road between Braintree and Marks Tey.”

Transport Minister Dr Stephen Ladyman vowed to look at alternative routes for the A120 proposals.

He also criticised the Department of Transport's own executive agency - the Highways Agency - for its consultation document and the way it was distributed.

He said: “The consultation document did not satisfactorily set out the fact that the alternatives were there to be considered or that new ideas could be put forward.

“I will ensure that that lesson is relearned.

“There was some confusion over the distribution of the consultation document. The Highways Agency received assurances from the organisation that was due to deliver it, but, despite those assurances, copies were not delivered as widely, thoroughly or early as the agency required.”

He also said the key aim behind the A120 improvements was to select the best option that had the least environmental impact.

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