The Blackwater Valley Action Group
PRESS RELEASE from The Blackwater Action Group

Coggeshall residents vote to “save the River Blackwater Valley” from the new A120

(April 4th 2005, Coggeshall, Essex) Nearly 200 people met in Coggeshall to discuss the A120 plans and voted nearly unanimously to reject the proposal by the Highways Agency to drive the new A120 through the beautiful River Blackwater Valley between Coggeshall and Feering. The meeting also objected to the Highways Agency only putting forward this one route and wanted other options properly evaluated, such as Essex CC’s original preference for a new A120 to join the A12 between Witham and Kelvedon, as proposed by Essex and Braintree Councillor Nigel Edey, who explained his ideas to the meeting.

At the meeting Alan Hurst MP also rejected the Highways Agency’s decision to put forward this one route for consultation: “I have discussed this matter with the Minister 18 months ago and he showed me thirteen routes. This is now down to one! Write in your hundreds and thousands to get the Highways Agency to stop the proposed route through the Blackwater Valley. This will force them then to evaluate alternatives which it has not previously rejected.”

“The Highways Agency have only put forward this one route and will only consider alternatives if their one route is rejected by the people of Essex. Fortunately there are other routes,” say the River Blackwater Action Group:

  • Essex County Council had already indicated that joining the M11 to the A12 between Witham and Kelvedon “has the lowest cost and is the best option for noise and pollution reductions. It has the least impact on local water quality. It has the highest Benefit/Cost ratio and highest user benefits for scenario 1 (which includes a third lane on the A12 northwards.]” [note to Editors: Essex CC 2002 document released by the Highways Agency.] A similar route has been proposed by Nigel Edey, Coggeshall Councillor on Essex CC and Braintree DC.
  • The Greens are proposing an improved version of the “on-line route’ following closer to the current A120
  • There has been talk of the Highways Agency looking at yet another route which would join the A12 north of Marks Tey

The Highways Agency did not even consider the Essex CC’s favoured route because it did not like what it saw as a “north south dogleg”. “The River Blackwater Valley route appeared to the Highways Agency as the best of the routes which it did consider,” says the River Blackwater Action Group. “However they had not even seen this beautiful corner of Essex and were apparently not even aware of the extent of the 2001 floods or of local residents’ fears of the flood risk - existing risk, even without their road. Also, the environmental and ecological damage would be terrible and irreversible, and the visual impact and noise pollution from the proposed bridge over the Blackwater would be something that future generations would not forgive today’s residents for allowing!”

“At recent public consultations the Highways Agency showed routes that it has already considered but rejected. So rejecting the Highways Agency’s route through the River Blackwater Valley would not revive the other routes that were displayed at the public consultations. In other words rejecting the Blackwater route would not be seen as a vote in favour of a northern route dipping down through Broad Green to join the A12 near Feering, as feared by some members of the Coggeshall Parish Council.”

Councillor Edey told the meeting that Essex CC will not support the Blackwater Valley route. He passed on the view of Rodney Bass, Essex CC cabinet member for transport, namely that he wants all the District Councils and the County Council to speak with one voice. Essex CC still prefer the route coming out between Witham and Kelvedon. “We want the Highways Agency to study these other routes as there is clear opposition to this current proposed route,” he said.

The Chairman and meeting were shocked to hear that Coggeshall PC had voted to support the Highways Agency’s proposed route and vociferously wanted it to reconsider the matter. Councillor Lady Newton also participated in the meeting, and a delegation from Cressing received a warm round of applause for their contribution and support for the positions taken at the Coggeshall meeting. “The Highways Agency’s route would devastate Cressing village with flyovers etc. We reject the Highways Agency’s route and have a campaign going against it. We haven't put forward another route but wish to find a solution and are for Councillor Edey’s approach” said Alan Perry from Cressing. “We are very pleased with that Coggeshall is having tonight's meeting and wish to work with other groups,” he added.

There was also concern at the meeting that Highways Agency have not properly understood the potential impact on Coggeshall traffic of having the new A120 joining the A12 in nearby Feering without any junction for Coggeshall and Earls Colne traffic. “Clearly there could not be a junction on the River Blackwater Valley route.

Petra Ward Chairman of Essex CPRE (Council for the Protection of Rural England) said that the CPRE are very much opposed the Highways Agency’s route through the River Blackwater Valley.

A Feering resident commented that there was considerable interaction between the ancient villages of Coggeshall, Feering and Kelvedon and that the Highways Agency clearly had no idea of the devastating impact that their current proposal would have. The River Blackwater Action Group has been formed by a group of residents from Coggeshall, Feering and Kelvedon, and their views were presented at the meeting by Andrew Napier form Feering village.

May Bank Holiday walk to “save the River Blackwater Valley”

(April 4th 2005, Coggeshall, Essex) At the Coggeshall meeting Roger Hadlee of the Historic Grade I listed Coggeshall Abbey on the River Blackwater announced that plans were being made for a walk along the heritage-rich River on May Bank Holiday Monday 2nd. “Getting people to see it and walk along it will make them all the more keen to save the River Blackwater Valley from the A120!” he said. Roger Hadlee spoke passionately about the area’s rich heritage and environmental beauty and the centuries that have gone into producing such a special area that the Highways Agency were proposing to destroy. “We can win this battle, but not with the sword as in ancient times. The pen and the laptop are mightier than the sword: write to tell them what you think.”

Our public meeting in Coggeshall produced a near-unanimous rejection of the route from the 200 residents who attended. Our public meeting in Coggeshall produced a near-unanimous rejection of the route from the 200 residents who attended.