Ely Crossing Plans Get Council Backing
By elypeople | Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 09:30
Council chiefs have ignored warnings from English Heritage and have agreed to back plans for a new by-pass for Ely that they say would "help reduce congestion in the station area of the city and help economic growth".
How the Ely Crossing could look
The plans for the £30.7 million by-pass (known as option B) would see a one-mile-long single carriageway by-pass spanning the River Great Ouse and rail lines, joining Stuntney Causeway to Angel Drove.
The increased delays at Ely level crossing have been cited as one of the primary reasons that a bypass is needed. Due to extra trains and upgrades being made by the rail industry the level crossing, which is already a traffic bottleneck, would become even more of a problem and will in the future be closed on average over 40 minutes in every hour.
Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet discussed a range of options and concerns, including the impact on the view of Ely Cathedral by the preferred option. The cabinet considered five alternative schemes including a £30.8 million underpass.
They also debated the strong concerns from English Heritage, who warned the council that lthe construction would "challenge the cathedral's hitherto unrivalled supremacy in the landscape" and "sever the current close relationship of the cathedral and city to the adjacent Fens". The council also heard representation from the Cathedral.
Cambridgeshire County Councillor Ian Bates, Cabinet Member for Growth and Planning, said: "Ely is a thriving area but currently the route through by the station is strangling traffic flow and the economy and this is set to get worse as the level crossing will be shut for much of the time. Getting the right solution is a challenge and involves trying to balance intrusion on the local historic environment while relieving congestion and encouraging growth.
"The bypass option B is the most effective in relieving congestion in Ely, provides the best value for money and, by allowing the improvement of the areas around the station, has the greatest additional benefits. In contrast the underpass while preserving the heritage setting only achieves the limited transport objective of relieving existing congestion at the level crossing. It would rule out any significant improvement of the station area, has no additional transport benefits, makes no provision for future traffic growth and is poor value for money."
Campaign group Ely Crossing Action, an organisation that opposes the council's choice of plan, has called for an alternative traffic solution to be put forward. Spokesperson Liz Hunter said: "The option the county council has chosen crosses both the river and the railway on huge 10m high embankments." The group instead backs a "hidden road", including a tunnel under the railway line.
The council say that the new by-pass could be open by the end of 2015 and the next stage will be detailed public consultation, with a planning application to be made in the new year.