East West Rail Environmental Surveys in Haslingfield
EWR aims to build a railway from Cambourne to Cambridge in the 2020s. Information on the status of this section of the route can be found on their website here. They have selected a search area for the route that includes all of Haslingfield and the area to the north. In terms of possible impact on village life, this is probably the biggest planning issue we have faced in decades.
The last six EWR consultation meetings including one on 31st March in Barrington Village Hall were postponed indefinitely due to the Coronavirus lockdown. Consequently many people outside the search area may be better informed than we are here in Haslingfield.
I was approached by EWR’s agents Ardent, who are offering to pay residents a few hundred pounds to do environmental surveys of their gardens. They are looking for protected species especially bats, great crested newts and any ponds, rivers or streams. I am aware of 5 home owners that have been approached – all on the edge of the village next to Chapel Hill. I spoke to Ardent to get more background. Their Philip Alliston told me that the surveys would be conducted by a well-known EWR contractor called Arup. I persistently asked what route option they were investigating having chosen these specific properties. He refused to move from the line that they were just gathering information and pushed to get the licence signed. He also would not be specific about where these surveys had been requested.
Beyond environmental surveys they would do a different kind of survey to check the nature of the ground. This would involve digging test bore holes and, unlike the environmental surveys, these surveys would be enforced in case the homeowner refuses the offer of a survey license (This happened during the A428 improvement work).
Mr Alliston also said that they would try to avoid built up areas because of the expense and the effect on the reputation of EW Rail.
The parish council are aware of the issue and have held a conference call with EWR. It would be good if the substance of that call were reported to the village together with any next steps. As a village we should at least be considering noise pollution, the effect on access to the village, e.g. of level crossings and the impact on property values.