Agency ‘wasted money’ on A11 tunnel surveys

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AN EQUESTRIAN group has accused the Highways Agency of wasting public money after it performed a u-turn on public rights of way on the A11.

The British Horse Society (BHS) was told towards the end of last year that the height of tunnels beneath the soon-to-be-dualled section of road between Barton Mills and Elveden would be 2.7m.

That was despite the BHS recommending to the Highways Agency a height of 3.4 metres – meaning riders would not have to dismount before passing under the road.

Now, the roads agency has decided to go along with the BHS’ original recommendations.

But according to Bryan Freemantle, who has represented the BHS during the negotiations, money spent by the agency on engineering surveys could have been saved.

“It may be that they have got it right at the eleventh hour but the Highways Agency has still got to answer for its lack of consultancy.

“It made promises before the plans were made to work with groups such as ours and just haven’t done that,” he said.

The Highways Agency’s initial concerns over the height of the underpasses centred on its belief that the water table in the area was between four and five metres below ground.

That was despite the land owners, Elveden Estate, saying the water table was actually at 30m.

In his letter to the BHS, Robert Gibson, project manager for the Highways Agency, said the agency had been considering lower tunnels in order to avoid the need for a pumped drainage system.

He went on to say: “I am pleased to inform you that following the concerns expressed by the British Horse Society about the proposed alteration to the height of the underpass the Highways Agency has undertaken further ground water level investigations in the area of the underpass.

“Following the review I can confirm that we will now be constructing the underpass to the full 3.7m height referred to in the Environmental Statement.”

Mr Freemantle will be one of a number of stakeholders to attend a meeting at Suffolk County Council’s offices today to discuss the plans for the A11 project.