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‘We were horrified’ - more concerns over 98-day road closure

PUBLISHED: 16:57 24 January 2019

Wetherden residents are concerns about lorries delivering to the Crest Nicholson site off Wetherden Road, Elmswell, passing through their village Picture: CAROLINE INGLEBY COOKE

Wetherden residents are concerns about lorries delivering to the Crest Nicholson site off Wetherden Road, Elmswell, passing through their village Picture: CAROLINE INGLEBY COOKE

CAROLINE INGLEBY COOKE

More villagers have added their voices to concerns over a 98-day road closure between two Suffolk communities.

A road closure sign letting people know that Wetherden Road in Elmswell will be closed from February 4 until May 12  Picture: MIKE FRIENDA road closure sign letting people know that Wetherden Road in Elmswell will be closed from February 4 until May 12 Picture: MIKE FRIEND

Wetherden Road, which connects Elmswell and Wetherden, will be shut for 14 weeks from February 4 while developer Crest Nicholson progresses work for 240 homes.

Elmswell residents have described the three-month road closure as “ludicrous” and those in Wetherden say it will be “damaging” to their community too.

Wetherden Parish Council chairman Christopher Harcourt said they were left in the dark about the plans to shut the road until only a few weeks ago.

“We, I think as a village and as a parish council, were horrified [when we found out]. We only found out about this around January 5/6.

“We haven’t been consulted as to the [diversion] routes which would be good for villagers.”

The official diversion means drivers in Wetherden will have to backtrack to the Stowmarket junction of the A14 and then use the dual carriageway to get to Elmswell, but there are concerns unsuitable traffic will instead use the single-track Warren Lane.

There was a meeting on Monday, January 21, with representatives of both parish councils, the developer and Suffolk County Council highways and Mr Harcourt said fears were allayed over pedestrian and cyclist access during the closure.

Elmswell Parish Council clerk Peter Dow said all they could possibly hope for at this stage was to “tweak some of the clear and very obvious pitfalls” such as the wording of the road closure signs.

He is also angry the communities were not consulted at an earlier stage.

“It’s going to be chaos,” he said. “If it was chaos, but everyone had done their best I would accept it. It’s going to be chaos and we haven’t been given the chance to do our best.”

Caroline Ingleby Cooke, who has lived in Wetherden for more than 40 years, said the new development was already having a “hugely negative impact” on the local community as construction traffic was passing through the historic village.

“We are a small village with listed properties and some narrow roads. Heavy traffic is bad news,” she said.

A Crest Nicholson spokesman said: “In order to deliver our new development on the Wetherden Road in Elmswell, substantial road improvement works are necessary including gas and electric diversions, widening of the existing road and footpaths, and new road surfaces.

“Alongside our contractors, traffic management consultants and Suffolk County Council, we looked at a range of traffic management options to complete the works and decided that a full road closure and diversion would be the least disruptive solution.

“We collectively felt that staggering road closures, temporary traffic lights and out of hours working would prolong the works and cause substantially more disruption for local residents over a longer period of time.

“The road works are in accordance with the planning permission and we will review the situation as the development progresses.

A Suffolk Highways spokesman said: “We appreciate concerns raised over the duration of the road closure, however Suffolk Highways has insisted collaborative working within the road closure by all utilities, thus minimising disruption and reducing the time needed on the highway.

“We will be monitoring progress throughout the period of the closure to ensure work is happening as efficiently as possible.”

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