Claims East West Rail route through Bassingbourn backed 'almost on a whim'

PUBLISHED: 08:30 21 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:06 21 March 2019

Speakers at the Economy and Environment Committee meeting. Picture: Courtesy of Susan van de Ven

Speakers at the Economy and Environment Committee meeting. Picture: Courtesy of Susan van de Ven

Archant

Concerns have been raised about Cambridgeshire County Council’s decision to back Route A in the East West Rail link consultation – with councillors claiming a new town of up to 30,000 houses in the Bassingbourn area is being supported “almost on a whim”.

The proposed routes for the East West railway link. Picture: East West RailThe proposed routes for the East West railway link. Picture: East West Rail

The county council’s Economy and Environment Committee voted 5-3, with one abstention, in favour of the route that would run through Bassingbourn and Sandy, with new stations being built at both sites.

In a report on the EWR route from Cambs County Council’s place and economy executive director, Graham Hughes, he wrote: “Of the five route options presented, Option A is the cheapest and would provide the lowest journey times between Oxford and Cambridge.

“Option A would provide for development in the Bassingbourn area, should such development be considered acceptable.”

County councillor Susan van de Ven, who represents Bassingbbourn, said that she only found out about the authority’s decision from a press release.

“It was only via a press release that I learned of the council’s endorsement of Option A, running through Bassingbourn – published before the committee had met to form a view and vote,” she said.

Gamlingay county councillor Sebastian Kindersley added: “It’s remarkable and deplorable that the county council can endorse a new town of up to 30,000 houses at Bassingbourn almost on a whim.”

Bassingbourn parish councillor Alex Hirtzel added: “It is most disappointing that the council didn’t listen to its own communities.”

Councillors were also concerned that former East West Rail Consortium chair Ian Bates – who chairs the Economy and Environment Committee – didn’t withdraw from the vote, claming there was a conflict of interest.

In a statement addressing their concerns, a spokeswoman for Cambs County Council said: “As per the members’ code of conduct, Councillor Bates declared a non-statutory disclosable interest as a member of both the East West Rail Consortium and as a member of the Greater Cambridge Partnership at the start of the meeting.

“Mr Bates is a key stakeholder representing the county council and Cambridgeshire at the East West Rail Consortium and taking part in these discussions is a key part of his role as a county councillor.”

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