Mr Chris Shuker
Highways Agency
Heron House
49-53 Goldington Road
Bedford MK40 3LL

March 15th 2005

Dear Mr Shuker

Re: A120 Braintree to Marks Tey

I am writing to try and help you understand the local impact that your ‘preferred route’ for the A120 would have and to suggest that there may be a better route.

By way of introduction, my wife and I have lived in Feering village for 20 years. It is an old village with a historic church and listed buildings (including ours) and an excellent train link (in neighbouring Kelvedon) to London and Ipswich. I also cycle and run in the area through which you are proposing to drive the new A120. Although there are particular concerns for Feering, which I will cover, I have listened to and talked with many people in Coggeshall, Kelvedon and Feering as we are a fairly close community, with considerable interaction between the three villages and a civic pride which leads many of us to be more concerned about how we look after this heritage-rich area and what we will leave behind.

The nice straight line which the Highways agency has drawn on the map will no doubt appeal to road haulage companies, but on the ground your ‘preferred route’ would cause awful and irreversible damage to the beautiful and peaceful River Blackwater valley between Coggeshall and Kelvedon/ Feering, and – as it could not have a junction at Coggeshall for local and Earls Colne traffic – would cause major traffic problems in and around Coggeshall and down to Feering, and would probably not even be the godsend hoped for by those Bradwell residents who live along the current A120 trunk road!

You have only put forward one route for consultation but have shown some alternatives that you have also considered and apparently rejected. Many of us believe that the route identified as the ‘preferred route’ is probably the worst of the routes on display, for a variety of reasons. Also, over the past few years we have often discussed the A120 with our elected representatives and understood that Essex CC’s preferred route – on grounds of environmental impact, cost and other important considerations – would bring a new A120 in to join the A12 between Witham and Kelvedon. The Highways agency has not even presented this route for public consultation.

Some specific observations that I would ask you please to take into consideration as you and your team try to develop a more appropriate solution:

1. As even your own consultants seem to recognise, your ‘preferred route’ passes too close to the north of historic Feering village. The preferred route would have a serious adverse effect on Feering Conservation Area and on the local community in terms of visual intrusion, noise, air quality, severance and seriously increased traffic on local roads that will be unable to take them. I am pleased that The Highways Agency recognises this and talks of ‘mitigation measures’ – which would probably be insufficient – and has even proposed an ‘alternative Southern route.’ From a purely Feering village perspective this ‘alternative Southern route’ would be marginally less bad, as it would go through an area that is more sparsely populated than Feering village. However I believe that the whole Southern/Feering North route idea is the wrong solution.

2. I think that you will find that most people in and outside the area agree that between London and Ipswich (LOIS) by far the highest priority is to improve the A12. At Hatfield Peverel, Witham, Kelvedon and Feering the two-lane sections lead to massive congestion at peak hours (even at current traffic levels) and – being two-lane – whenever there is an accident or breakdown the knock-on effects can be excruciating for the villages along the route. And this is only at today’s traffic levels. The optimum A120 solution should surely take advantage of the eventual improvement of the A12. The Highways Agency’s inclusion within the A120 project of the costs of upgrading part of the A12 is misleading and may lead to inappropriate decision-making on the route for the A120.

3. A new A120 would be intended to provide long-term solutions. As it would in the medium and long term co-exist with an upgraded A12, is it asking too much for the Highways Agency to prioritise the A12 and synchronise plans for both roads? The need to upgrade a longer stretch of the A12 should surely not be a reason not to pursue options which would see a new A120 joining the A12 closer to Witham than to Mark’s Tey? If however the only way we are going to get an upgraded A12 is for you to amalgamate the costs with the A120, please bring the A120 even further south! What price Chelmsford!

4. There is a specific Feering/Kelvedon problem that your current A120 proposals would aggravate: part of the project includes widening the A12 either side of a new A120/A12 intersection, but without any junction/slip road for traffic coming north from Tiptree. The continued lack of a sliproad (to the by then improved A12 and A120) would seriously aggravate what is already a major problem for Kelvedon and Feering: even at today’s traffic levels the absence of a link from Tiptree to the A12 results in a lot of lorries and other vehicles having to go through these villages to get on to the A12 in either direction. At peak times there can even be a tailback on the Coggeshall Road, Feering, of vehicles trying to get on to the London Road. With an upgraded A12 and new A120 the above problems would get much worse unless the Tiptree problem can be adequately addressed.

a. At the public consultations at Coggeshall and Kelvedon, Highways Agency consultants pointed out that some convoluted route involving two or more roundabouts, the current London Road, Feering, and the current A12 could be considered. This is not a convincing solution to what is already a major problem at today’s traffic levels. Indeed some of the large lorries involved may cause even bigger blockages on such a complicated network of slip roads.

b. When asked about the lack of access for Tiptree traffic, another of the Highways Agency’s consultants at the Coggeshall public consultation said that such a Tiptree road/A12 junction would be too close to their preferred location for the new A120/A12 junction. This objection would be overcome by locating the new A120/A12 junction closer to Mark’s Tey (the “alternative location” in the Highways Agency’s three other options) – or by being addressed as part of a solution that brings a new A120 in to join the A12 between Witham and Kelvedon, as favoured by our elected representatives on Essex CC..

5. Despite local objections, it seems that the Government is still considering locating a major incinerator at Rivenhall, which would take waste from a very large area (including Kent.) The increase in lorry movements that such an incinerator would involve would further underline the need for an improved A12. Furthermore these problems could also be alleviated by bringing a new A120 further south to join the A12 much closer to Rivenhall.

6. As I am sure you will realise when you visit the area, your report is wrong to claim that your ‘preferred route’ would not directly affect any designated areas of environmental interest. The increased flood risk, noise, visual and ecological impact on the River Blackwater valley near Coggeshall would be terrible and irreversible.

a. Residents of Coggeshall, Kelvedon and (to a lesser extent) Feering already have concerns about the flood plain and recently parts of the area suffered severe flooding. It is probable that a flood risk assessment of the four options displayed at the consultations would indicate that your ‘preferred route’ would increase the flood risk more than the other options – or a possible alternative between Witham and Kelvedon, further from the River Blackwater. We appreciate that your report talks of trying to mitigate the increased flood risk, but there is no doubt that the already unacceptable risk would be increased.

b. Furthermore the visual impact and noise pollution that would be caused by the proposed bridge over the River Blackwater would have a dreadful and irreversible negative impact on the environment in a quiet and particularly beautiful part of the Essex countryside. The land between Coggeshall and Feering (near Feeringbury Manor) and between Coggeshall and Kelvedon (near Coggeshall Hall) on either side of the River Blackwater have considerable environmental interest. Your ‘preferred route’ would go straight through the River Blackwater valley, in an area which has benefited from outstanding environmental stewardship over the years. There is also significant birdlife in the area, with kingfishers, herons, bitterns, egrets, many different ducks and geese, grebes and sandpipers. The ‘open gardens’ at Feeringbury Manor are a popular attraction and give outstanding views of beautiful Essex countryside. This area also has considerable historical and heritage value, of which I believe you have already been made aware.

7. Many local residents believe strongly that, as there is already a by-pass at Coggeshall, every effort should be made to incorporate it into any future plan for the A120. (The bends on the current by-pass would however need to be smoothed out, unlike on the route shown in the brochure.) We appreciate that a solution for the new A120 has to be found, and believe that there is a better solution than any which have so far been put forward for public consultation: namely for the A120 to join the A12 between Witham and Kelvedon, which would undoubtedly be less environmentally damaging than your extremely damaging currently ‘preferred route’.

Regarding a Witham/Rivenhall/Kelvedon option, I understand that there is a concern within the Highways Agency that a predominantly East-West route should not have a ‘North-South dog-leg’. Roads do however frequently have to diverge from the preferred straight line because of facts on the ground, for example to avoid built up areas, to minimise adverse environmental impacts, to respect the human rights of residents or for other considerations. A solution with the A120 joining the A12 between Witham and Kelvedon would also be more convenient for many Witham residents and business to access the new A120, and would alleviate some of Witham’s often chronic traffic problems.

So I join the chorus of voices asking you to consider bringing a new A120 in to join the A12 between Witham and Kelvedon. There are strong arguments to prefer such a solution, and we would ask the Highways Agency to take its clearly inappropriate “southern/Feering North” route off the table as soon as possible, as it is causing considerable anguish and ‘property blight’ in the area, without (I hope) any realistic likelihood that it would ever end up being the final choice.

Yours sincerely