Ambridge in Danger. Road Threat Gets Real.

CPRE and the Campaign for Better Transport have been trying for some time to rally opposition to what the Government boasts is the largest road-building programme for fifty years. It has been hard to build the campaign because the prospect of future new roads, probably somewhere else, can seem rather abstract. Now, however, the threat is very real. Ambridge is in danger, and for many people, it does not get more real than that.

 

You can listen to recent episodes of the Archers online, but the basic plot is that a new road has been proposed to link Borchester and Hollerton (if you do not know where they are, you need to buy a better map). Of three possible routes, one goes through Penny Hasset, an announcement that provoked disgraceful Nimbyish cheers at a public meeting in Ambridge village hall. (I now suspect that the Mrs Penny Hasset who wrote to me asking CPRE to campaign against the road may not be a real person.)

 

Route B, however, goes right through David and Ruth Archer’s farm, Brookfield. David’s mother, the saintly Jill, is particularly upset. ‘Just think, you might have cars and lorries thundering by here soon… It’s all so lovely at this time of year – cow parsley, red campion, and later on it’s full of willow herb… And now, it may not be there for much longer… If you believe that terrible man, the new road would go right through the middle of it, the whole path would be bulldozed and covered in tarmac.’

 

Later she says: ‘It’s not just me being a NIMBY is it?… For me it goes deeper. If the road gets built here, some things will be lost forever. Little things, but very precious to me…. Like the path where I picked those flowers, it’s nothing special, but it hasn’t changed since I first came here. For all we know it’s been the same for the last 500 years, maybe even longer… Once it’s gone that’s it, it’s gone for ever….It’s easy to build a new road, all you need is money. But no one can replace a piece of the landscape that’s been there for centuries.’

 

Village busybody Linda Snell, clearly not a CPRE member, is organising the campaign: ‘I’m not one to sit idly by while faceless bureaucrats wreak havoc with our precious countryside as if it was their own little sandbox to play games with. We must all stand up for the peaceful hills and meadows of South Borsetshire…’

 

At the village hall meeting, the road is justified on the grounds that it will help business, ease congestion and improve access to the motorway (businesspeople will be able to get to the traffic jam on the motorway quicker). The development company Borsetshire Land (hiss) looks set to benefit. As pantomime villain Matt Crawford says, ‘if it goes ahead it could lead to some tasty development opportunities… it could be the start of a mini-gold rush…’ And Brian Aldridge, always one to see a business opportunity, is keeping well away from the growing campaign.

 

The proposed road does not appear to be in the local plan, and I suspect it is the brainchild of the Borsetshire Local Economic Partnership (yes, a shadowy body; you would be forgiven for not having heard of it). It is probably a detail in its Strategic Economic Plan. The whole thing is a mess, and we have offered to send CPRE’s transport campaigner, Ralph Smyth to Ambridge to help the campaign. He comes from the county and knows the area well. He will urge the villagers to come up with plausible alternatives to the new road – not just favouring options A and C over option B- and to use CPRE’s Transport Toolkit.

 

But even with Ralph’s help, the story is likely to run and run. Reading the Archers Facebook page (not a phrase I ever expected to write) it is clear that it has struck a chord with listeners. There are a couple of pro-roads comments (including one suggesting that the tarmac should go over Peggy Archer) but overwhelmingly the sense is of distress about developments happening across the country, and of helplessness.

 

–        ‘Looks like The Archers has touched a nerve with listeners re planning. Pretty sure this is one of the reasons there has been such turmoil in our recent elections. We are promised local decision making re planning – only to see it ignored in practice.’

 

–        ‘Despite being a lorry driver I agree. We destroy too much with roads, we don’t need any more.’

 

–        ‘All a bit close to home for me. 250 acres of Devon countryside under threat.’

 

–        ‘And it’s happening in reality all over the country. Will they be able to stop the road? Because if they do then it’ll be a miracle.’

 

–        ‘My local council is planning to build a road across the rugby fields right next to the lovely river and canal walks and the best children’s park in town despite a protest group being set up, so I can already tell this storyline is going to make my blood boil!’

 

–        ‘Been through all this where I live for last five years and lost the fight. Not sure I want to go through it all again…’

 

–        ‘They are planning to put the new M11 junction 7a link road right through Old Harlow. We will be marooned. This on top of the 1200 new houses on the land 5 minutes away, and also putting the football field under houses too.’

 

–        ‘cf: Twyford, Hampshire. Now a gash on the once beautiful downland.’

 

–        ‘Many people have rural places they love. They may not visit every day but it’s devastating when that area is ruined by development…. It doesn’t just change the landscape but the sounds & feel is destroyed. Not to mention the effect on wildlife etc. We must protect our beautiful  countryside.’

 

CPRE is certainly not against all development. The country has a rising population and people’s needs always change. Developments will take place which upset people and damage the environment. That is sad, but it is not necessarily unjustifiable or undemocratic (see my previous blog). But what is significant now is the widespread sense that development is out of hand, that it is happening fast, everywhere; either unplanned or planned by bodies that seem remote, opaque, and unaccountable.

 

I hate to see any beautiful stretch of countryside ruined by an unnecessary new road, but if it has to happen anywhere, let it be in Ambridge. Then we might be to get people to take the threat of the coming road-building programme seriously. It really is real.

4 Responses to “Ambridge in Danger. Road Threat Gets Real.”


  1. 1 geoff lambert June 1, 2014 at 6:26 am

    A worthy campaign for those of us already members and of a certain age who still listen to such programmes, but if we want to appeal to the 97% who have never heard of us then we need such an event on Eastenders; Coronation St or Emmerdale.

  2. 2 andrew needham June 1, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    ”I suspect it is the brainchild of the Borsetshire Local Economic Partnership (yes, a shadowy body; you would be forgiven for not having heard of it). It is probably a detail in its Strategic Economic Plan.”

    One of the first acts of the Coalition was to abolish the nine RDAs, a move which the business secretary, Vince Cable, described as “Maoist and chaotic”.

    Borsetshire is probably part of the SW Region. This had an important role in co-ordinating the competing ambitions from the LEPs.

  3. 3 Ian Firth June 18, 2014 at 10:08 am

    I’m not a regular archers listener (not that frequently anyway) however this is an interesting ‘hot topic’ for clients of ours in the Blackdown Hills AONB at the moment. It seems that following the loss of part of the railway at Dawlish during the recent storms – Ministers and MPs suddenly have a new found love for tarting up the A303! While they’re not committing to a full ‘dualling’ through the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (thank goodness – look at the mess the A30 made through East Devon) they are however contemplating a potentially very serious / impactful ‘improvement’ programme… Which will see ~£50m spent on junctions and areas of safety concern… basically to help holiday-makers reach Cornwall more rapidly!

    Is it just me – or would you say that, in general, it seems to have been forgotten (or perhaps conveniently ignored) by local and central government that AONBs are ‘supposed’ to be a well protected as National Parks? I couldn’t agree more that connections with the South West need to be improved… however there are better (and more practical) options that won’t affect designated areas.

    Incidentally… if Linda Snell is available for a conversation perhaps she might like to take advice from us (shameless plug: http://www.iobject.co.uk) before making a complete hash of the only opportunity they’ll have to avoid the dozers!

    I can hear the sounds of clanking handcuffs and wailing protesters already…

    On the plus side for Borsetshire residents and R4 listeners – I’m certain that the Archers scheme won’t get the go ahead… High speed traffic noise is a terrible nuisance for radio sound engineers!

  4. 4 J.G.Harston June 27, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    The main road skirting Ambridge is the A1992 and most of the other roads in the area are in road zone 1, therefore Ambridge is in the East Midlands or East Anglia. In fact, A19xx puts Ambridge on the Northumbrian/Berwickshire coast.


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