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Fears villagers will 'take the law into their own hands' and ignore lengthy road closure

PUBLISHED: 16:00 18 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:20 24 January 2019

Elmswell parish councillor Mike Friend standing next to a sign letting people know that Wetherden Road in Elmswell will be closed from February 4 until May 12  Picture: SUBMITTED

Elmswell parish councillor Mike Friend standing next to a sign letting people know that Wetherden Road in Elmswell will be closed from February 4 until May 12 Picture: SUBMITTED

Angry residents have said a "ludicrous" 98-day road closure that will cut off a main route into their village should be reconsidered.

Elmswell Parish Clerk Peter Dow fears villagers who are disgruntled over the three-month closure of Wetherden Road in Elmswell could “take the law into their own hands and take the signs down” - an action he said he would not condone.

Suffolk Highways is shutting the road - that connects Elmswell with Wetherden - from February 4 until May 12 so house-builder Crest Nicholson can install services, such as drains, for its scheme of 240 homes.

Villagers have described the three-month closure of this main bus route as “unnecessary” and the retired owner of an Elmswell-based transport company said it should be “completely reconsidered”.

The 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, which would turn a five-minute drive into a 13-minute journey.

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

There are also concerns some will ignore the diversion and instead use the single-track Warren Lane.

Mr Dow said: “We have had a lot of experience about similarly ill-conceived closures causing chaos.

“They cannot tell us that for three months, nearly 100 days, there is going to be work going on that requires closures.

“On Monday, [in a meeting] with the developer and Suffolk County Council, I’m hoping we can persuade them to soften that a little bit.

Wetherden Road's junction with Jubilee Terrace  Picture MIKE FRIENDWetherden Road's junction with Jubilee Terrace Picture MIKE FRIEND

“My fear is the residents are so angry about this they will take the law into their own hands and take the signs down. I cannot sanction that at all.”

He said many people had not wanted the development in the first place so for them the lengthy closure was a “double injury” and locals had not been consulted on how best to carry it out.

Hugh Wilson, retired owner of Elmswell-based H.C.Wilson Transport and who lives in Haughley, described the planned closure as “horrendous”.

“As a retired businessman, I am fully aware of the need for health and safety of the workers on the road, but I feel, as a community, we are closing so many roads so often that businesses are losing major efficiency and productivity.

Wetherdon Road in Elmswell -drone-1Wetherdon Road in Elmswell -drone-1

“In the end, if we do not start to rein in these closures, Suffolk’s productivity will suffer, perhaps to the point of company closures. Perhaps now is already the tipping point. I believe this proposed closure should be completely reconsidered.”

Elmswell mum-of-two Rachael Robertson agreed there needs to be a rethink, adding: “It seems ludicrous to shut the road for such a long period. It seems so unnecessary for a road that is in heavy use.”

Elmswell parish councillor Mike Friend said he was “really angry” about the closure, which he feels is all for company profit and not the good of the village.

He added: “If the A14 is closed because of an accident they come through the village - where are they going to go now? And putting all the extra vehicles from the village onto the A14 and having to pull out onto the A14 is just asking for disaster.”

Mound of mud at the Crest Nicholson development site  Picture: MIKE FRIENDMound of mud at the Crest Nicholson development site Picture: MIKE FRIEND

A Suffolk Highways spokesman said the shutting of Wetherden Road was needed to complete necessary utility works for the Crest Nicholson housing development.

“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.”

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.”

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