Essex Highways U-turn days before public inquiry begins into controversial 168-home development in Stansted
A last-minute U-turn by Essex Highways just days before a public inquiry has angered campaigners fighting a proposed new development of 168 homes in Stansted.
The authority has withdrawn its original objections following discussions with developer Bloor Homes, which is appealing against Uttlesford District Council’s refusal to let it build on farmland off Pennington Lane.
But with a public inquiry starting on Tuesday (July 13), the news has come as a bitter blow to the Save Stansted Village (SSV) campaign and Bentfield County Primary School, which has serious concerns about increased traffic passing its Rainsford Road site.
Essex Highways is now backing red route parking restrictions around the school to ease the flow of traffic, the closure of Pennington Lane and a new left-hand lane for traffic turning out of Croasdaile Road onto the main B1383.
John Black, chair of governors at Bentfield, said: "The U-turn has caught us completely by surprise. It's so late it's unbelievable.
"As chair of governors and a parent of a SEN child, I'm appalled that highways think putting a red route in is going to allay the concerns we have. It doesn't help us in any way – in fact it's going to cause us problems.
"We have a staff of 72 and 16 parking spaces, which means staff parking further away – it's just moving the problem. Routing traffic through the Hargrave estate and past the school is a serious safety concern and I'm genuinely concerned about the safety of our children."
SSV chair Jamie Hogg said in a letter to Essex Highways: “It greatly saddens me that despite this being raised with your department, the pleas of the school in this regard have been completely ignored. Neither has anyone consulted with them to understand their needs.
"The general view of people we have talked to in the community indicates that if the issue is as severe as to require red routes, isn’t there something wrong with the proposal?"
Essex County Council said it initially recommended objection on highways grounds because not enough information had been provided for it to form a view.
A spokesperson said: "A further transport assessment was submitted by the developer... Also the developer put forward proposals for mitigation of the highway impact.
"The effect on the school was considered and mitigation included schemes to traffic-calm existing roads and limit parking around the school for a short section of road (approximately 120m) at pick-up and drop-off time to ease congestion.
"It was also proposed to provide better bus services serving the current estate and new development, and limiting car traffic in the northern parts of Pennington Lane, allowing a route for walkers and cyclists.
"Also put forward was a scheme to increase capacity at the junction with B1383 and Croasdaile Road and a contribution towards a larger capacity scheme on the A120 roundabout."