Letter to The Highways Agency 24th Feb 2005

Dear Mr. Shuker


I am writing as a resident of Coggeshall. I have read with great interest your booklet. “A120 Braintree to Marks Tey Improvement.” So I am enquiring how a proposed plan to cut through so much of our farm land, destroying the livelihood of our rural communities, to build yet one more road, could in any way be called a Improvement.

In the Government’s national policies, Planning Policy Statement 7: Sustainable Development in Rural Areas sets out to protect the best and most versatile agricultural land. The policies of the East of England Regional Assembly (see East of England Plan Chapter 9 environmental resources) state that the region has one of the highest concentrations of high quality agricultural land in the country and that this land should be protected from irreversible damage. The Braintree District Local Plan states:

Chapter 7


Braintree District Local Plan; Adopted February 1995 67

7.1 The countryside in Braintree District is of high environmental quality with areas of high quality agricultural land and of special landscape value, together with sites of special scientific interest, and areas of nature conservation importance, trees and woodlands, and protected lanes. Even where the countryside lacks particular quality it is important to protect it and strive to enhance it for its own sake. Certain areas of countryside around settlements are particularly vulnerable and Green Wedges have been identified around Braintree and Witham, between Sturmer and Haverhill, and between Kelvedon and Feering to prevent the coalescence of the towns with their surrounding villages and to maintain strategic gaps between settlements.

General Rural Policy BDP 57 (Paras 7.1, 7.2 and 15.1)

Within the rural areas of Braintree District priority will be given to the protection of the environment and agricultural land.

Countryside Policy

Braintree District Local Plan; Adopted February 1995 68

7.2 It is considered important to protect and enhance all those features which contribute to the attractiveness of the countryside and policies BDP 57 to 76 will be applied as appropriate.

Chapter 15

The Rural Areas Braintree District Local Plan; Adopted February 1995 163

15.1 Much of Braintree District is rural. It is an essential part of the strategy for the District to protect the countryside, whilst at the same time maintaining the economic and social viability of villages within it. Policies are therefore included in this Plan which seek:-

- to prevent unnecessary development in the countryside (BDP 57, 58A, and 59)

- to limit the growth of villages (BDP 58A)

- to achieve a high quality of development in villages (BDP 17)

- to provide for local housing needs (BDP 11)

- to provide for local employment (BDP 38)

- to provide for tourism and recreational development (BDP 58A and 101)

Reference should also be made to the housing policies in Chapter 4 and the countryside policies in Chapter 7.

The Highways Agency is going against these policies with their Proposed Southern Route which basically says that putting the road through arable farmland areas is fine as this is a cheaper option. The following statement from the Public Consultation document is simply wrong.

The proposal would not directly affect any designated areas of environmental interest and the majority of the land taken would be from arable farmland areas, with generally low ecological value.

How does this statement fit with all the planning policies trying to protect the ‘high quality agricultural land?’ The National Farmers’ Union describes East Anglia as Britain’s breadbasket. Presumably, the Highways Agency expects to be able to overcome opposition from a limited number of farmers and sell their proposal as the best because it is the cheapest. The environmental cost is incalculable and the damage to the countryside will be irreversible.

I believe, if the Braintree bypass is a good guide to what follows a road building scheme, it will not be long before we see our unspoilt countryside covered with yet more housing developments. Therefore, instead of reducing the congestion and delays, it will add to both more houses being built and lead to more cars adding to greenhouse gas emissions.

The only way to help to reduce congestion on our roads is by improving public transport and not by covering more of our landscape with concrete. As this road so called improvement scheme seems to be in part about a fast road link to Stanstead airport, would it not be a better idea to run the old Braintree railway line to the airport helping to take cars off the roads? At the moment for many people the only way to travel is sadly by car, making many pensioners prisoners in the villages they live in.

Yours sincerely

R. J. Lambert.
Coggeshall Resident.