English Heritage’s chief executive hits out at Ely bypass plans

Dr Simon Thurley is the chief executive of English Heritage.

Dr Simon Thurley is the chief executive of English Heritage. - Credit: IAN BURT

The chief executive of English Heritage has angered campaigners in favour of Ely’s southern bypass - just days before he is due to give a talk in the city promoting his new book.

Speaking on Friday at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, Simon Thurley said the bypass, which is planned to span the River Great Ouse, would ruin views of Ely Cathedral.

Mr Thurley is due in Ely on October 23 to give a talk at the Old Bishop’s Palace on his new book, The Men from the Ministry.

He told the festival, “We’re dealing with a very difficult case at the moment in Ely, which is in the fens; a wonderful cathedral rising up beautifully out of the mist.

“It is being threatened by a massive bypass which is going to be built across the fens, so as you come up to the cathedral you won’t any longer see it rising up because you’ll just see a massive flyover.

“The heritage legislation we have today was not designed to protect the views of Ely Cathedral, it was designed to stop the Dean from bashing it down.

“My focus, and the focus of English Heritage at the moment, is to try and find ways that we can judge the impact of wind farms, for instance, and other structures which have an impact on the aesthetics of buildings.

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“And I think that’s the biggest challenge that faces us today.”

City of Ely and Cambridgeshire County Councillor Mike Rouse was incensed by Mr Thurley’s comments, he said: “One of the best views of Ely Cathedral rising up out of the mist is when you are stuck in a line of traffic coming down Stuntney hill and the bypass won’t interfere with this view at all.

“It will actually improve the view and you may be able to enjoy it more while not sitting in a queue waiting for the gates to open.

“Of course, it could be that the cathedral is rising up out of a mist of car and lorry exhausts caught up in another tailback.”