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Suffolk: ‘Nonsensical’ A14 diversion sparks criticism

PUBLISHED: 09:00 26 August 2011

The Highways Agency is looking to close an 18 mile stretch of the A14 for three weeks while it carries out urgent resurfacing works

The Highways Agency is looking to close an 18 mile stretch of the A14 for three weeks while it carries out urgent resurfacing works

Archant

TRANSPORT bosses have come under fire for ignoring the concerns of villagers in proposing a “nonsensical” 37 mile diversion on one of Suffolk’s major roads.

The Highways Agency is hoping to start over night resurfacing work on the westbound carriageway of the A14 in October between junction 49 at Stowmarket and junction 47 at Woolpit.

As a result it is closing an 18 mile stretch for three weeks, from junction 51 at Needham Market to junction 43 at Bury St Edmunds.

Traffic will be diverted onto the A140 and then across the A143 and back down towards Bury St Edmunds - just over 37 miles.

The move has been strongly criticised by those living in and representing Haughley, Wetherden and Elmswell who fear traffic will ignore the route and simply pass through their villages late at night.

The Highways Agency has also come under fire for failing to attend a meeting to discuss the concerns.

Peter Dow, clerk of Elmswell Parish Council, said: “The diversions are completely nonsensical. When I showed the plans to my councillors a few weeks ago, every single one of them burst out laughing.

“Lorry drivers have satellite navigation systems - they are not going to go three quarters of an hour out of their way when their sat nav is telling them they can just nip through and short cut it. It will bring them within feet of many dwellings.”

Mr Dow also criticised the Highways Agency for its lack of consultation.

“We thought all we would have to do is contact them and point out the problems and they would revert to their usual plan of a contraflow,” he said. “However we have been completely ignored. They didn’t turn up to a meeting and then we were sent a very cursory letter telling us that this is what they were going to do.”

Tony Couzens, clerk to Wetherden Parish Council, said: “People are very concerned. We understand that work has to be done but to expect A14 style traffic to rumble through - at times very close to property - is unreasonable.”

Green county councillor Andrew Stringer, whose division includes Haughley and Wetherden, echoed the comments.

“It’s an outrage,” he said. “Drivers will simply ignore the diversion and go through the villages. People will not be able to sleep at night.

“Personally I’m at a loss as to why the Highways Agency haven’t been able to get round a table and talk about it. No one wants to stop them doing the work that needs to be done but they need to get their thinking caps on and come up with a more appropriate solution.”

A spokeswoman for the Highways Agency defended their approach, saying they looked at a number of options, including a contraflow system, but concluded the most efficient and quickest way was to close the carriageway overnight when traffic is at its lowest.

“Using a contraflow would cost significantly more and would require a speed limit in place all day on the affected stretch of road,” she said. “We appreciate the concerns of local people and their elected representatives but believe using a diversion route, which will only be in place between 7pm and 6am, is the right solution.

“Though inevitably longer, this is designed to direct drivers who do not know the area on to the most suitable roads.”

She said the diversion would be re-inforced by an alternative route for heavy vehicles using the A120 and M11.

She added that representatives from the Highways Agency were unable to attend a meeting called by Suffolk County Council earlier this month because of its short notice.

“We remain willing to meet representatives of local authorities to discuss this programme of work,” she said.

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