THE Highways Agency has been accused of breaking promises on rights of way cut by the planned A11 dualling.
The agency has also been accused of using incorrect water table data to justify lowering the height of an underpass for ‘non motorised users’ under the road between Barton Mills and Elveden.
Bryan Freemantle and Elizabeth Barrett represented the British Horse Society and Camino Riders rights of way group respectively at pre-inquiry talks with the agency. Both withdrew objections after being promised an underpass linking bridleways and byways cut by the road. Part of the deal was that it would be to the BHS recommended height of 3.4 metres, allowing horses to be ridden through.
But without consulting user groups, the agency decided to reduce it to 2.7m and put mounting blocks at each end.
Several riders contacted the Bury Free Press to object and all said the changes discriminated against disabled riders and were dangerous.
Mr Freemantle explained: “You’ve got more control of a horse when you’re on its back than leading it. If it get’s spooked by the noise or something, it will swing its back round. If it gets away in that tunnel it will fly to the other end regardless of what walkers are there.”
In an email to Mr Freemantle, agency project manager Robert Gibson said drainage for a 3.7m tunnel was impossible because the water table at the underpass site was ‘between 4.0m and 4.5m’ below ground.
But the land owners Elveden Estates says the water table is at 30m.
Suffolk Local Access Forum vice-chairman and farmer David Barker said: “I’m amazed at the rubbish coming out of the Highways Agency. Four metres is a heavy land water table, not on the light Breckland soils.
“The Highways Agency is primarily interested in people behind steering wheels. Public rights of way are almost an intrusion to them.”
A spokeswoman for the agency said: “The safety of horse riders using the underpass is a priority. After discussion with our consultants and the Elveden Estate we will be carrying out further investigations into the level of the water table.”