‘English Heritage would prefer we inflict travel misery on this city rather than accept a bypass’ says council leader
16:34 25 March 2014
The leader of East Cambs Council claims English Heritage would rather Ely remain gridlocked for generations rather than accept the building of a by pass.
Councillor James Palmer said: “English Heritage would prefer we inflict travel misery on this city rather than accept a bypass- and that’s wrong.”
“Local people want the bypass and it is now time for everyone to stamp their feet and get behind it.”
The East Cambs leader said English Heritage was “an unelected quango and we have no recourse over them. They can say and do what they like and don’t have to go to the electorate to prove whether they are right”.
His anger at the latest efforts to thwart the bypass is shared his deputy, Charles Roberts, who said their alternative of an underpass was a non starter.
“We met with English Heritage and told them that an underpass simply won’t happen,” said Cllr Roberts. “They accepted that an underpass isn’t an option from the station gateway point of view. I told them if they push the bypass to appeal it could put it out of reach of our lifetimes- they were quite accepting of this. They didn’t seem at all worried about stopping this once in a lifetime chance.”
Cllr Palmer said the battle for the £30m bypass was now in “the end game” with plans likely to go before the county council planning committee at the end of April.
But he fears the influence of English Heritage – which receives substantial funding from the Government- could jeopardise that decision.
David Grech, historic places adviser for English Heritage, has told the county council that “we cannot see how the severe level of harm arising from the current proposal can be justified”.
He said English Heritage will press for the Secretary of State to ‘call in’ the application if it is approved by the county council.
That could delay the project and if a public inquiry was called then Cllr Palmer fears it could have serious implications for the by pass funding.
He said the bypass had attracted up to 80 per cent support since the majority recognised that an underpass “doesn’t take traffic away from Ely at all. It’s horrendously busy around there and will remain a massive bottleneck.”
Cllr Palmer said: “I made an offer to English Heritage of working as closely as they wanted on the station gateway. They have experience and knowledge and we were prepared to work with them to get an acceptable gateway if they softened their stance on the bypass. But they weren’t prepared to do that.
“This is the end game in my opinion and we are at a crucial phase. We have done everything we can at East Cambs and the county council to make sure Ely gets its bypass and East Cambs and Fenland get their business link. The problem is this particular body has taken it out of elected representatives and if they get it to appeal the cost to the community is going to be horrendous.”
He added: “If English Heritage is successful in getting the bypass blocked or cancelled you will find the status goes on and it will get worse and worse with up to 50 minutes in every hour that traffic will be stopped at the rail crossing.”
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