Curlew delays road project

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PLANS to ease traffic at a notorious bottleneck have been frustrated by concerns over a rare bird’s welfare.

The Brandon relief road is planned to run to the side of Weeting Heath, one of the UK’s few breeding sites for the stone curlew.

If approved, the road is expected to relieve the rush hour gridlock common to High Street and London Road.

But Brandon Landowners’ Consortium is waiting for a Natural England report into the possible impact of the road before submitting a planning application.

Giles de Lotbiniere, of the Brandon Landowners’ Consortium, said: “We are waiting on Natural England who are being very slow and frustrating the entire scheme.”

Mr de Lotbiniere said that communication with Natural England had been ongoing for more than three years.

A spokesman for Natural England said it was still in the early stages of its decision-making process and would be meeting with developers and consultants later this month.

Tim Curwon, the RSPB’s stone curlew project officer, said: “Weeting Heath has about six pairs of stone curlews, typically.

“Research has shown that they avoid nesting near main roads. The distance which they tend to avoid nesting near is up to 1,500m.”

Matthew Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, met Mr de Lotbiniere last Friday to discuss the lack of progress.

Mr Hancock said: “The meeting was very positive getting a relief road is vital for Brandon – it’s not just about the road it’s about the town which is so damaged by having stationary traffic in it all the time. Getting this relief road is about securing the future of Brandon.”

Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council’s portfolio holder for roads, planning and transport, said: “We are sensitive to the needs of the environment but having said that we desperately need to get something done about the traffic problem – the only way we can do that is to build a relief road.”