Fen village in uproar after collapsed culvert leads to 45 week closure and a detour that could add 30 miles a day to some commuters’ journeys
PUBLISHED: 12:01 28 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:15 29 February 2020
Villagers have reacted furiously to the news that a road closed for part of last year for improvement work will close for a further 45 weeks after a culvert collapsed.
Farthing Drove at the far end of Sedge Fen Road, Lakenheath, is the main route through to the A1101 at Shippea Hill but it closed suddenly this week after the collapse.
Disbelieving villagers thought the signs that went up closing the road for 45 weeks were a joke, but the closure has been confirmed by Suffolk County Council.
Former councillor Hermione Brown moderates the local Facebook page and has been collating updates.
"I am led to understand that Burnt Fen Drainage Board have confirmed that the issue was reported to Suffolk County Council 12-18 months ago," she posted.
"Although it is a drain, because it affects the main highway, the responsibility lies with Suffolk County Council not with them."
She said the works were scheduled by Suffolk County Council to be carried out this month "but unfortunately the culvert has now collapsed, prior to work starting.
"The drainage board advise that the necessary emergency works will now be carried out by the county council."
She added: "This closure effects so many people particularly those that live in the Fen."
One of hundreds of villagers protesting says she was less than pleased when she called about the county council about compensation for the extra time and mileage on her daily commute.
"I asked about compensation for an extra one hour a day travel and was told 'they understand our frustration' - add to the fact that the county council will have to put on an extra bus just to pick up six Sedge Fen kids for 45 weeks."
Another said her daily detour will add an extra 31 miles each day.
"Multiply that by a five-day week and pay at the Suffolk County Council mileage rate of 45p per mile that is £69.75 per week.
"Multiply by 45 weeks that's £3,138.75. Maybe we all need to put a claim in to the council?"
One local farmer said he was angry that the authorities knew about the problem for the past two years.
"It is ridiculous they didn't sort it when they did the road up last year," he said.
He said a friend was horrified to discover that up until the day before the culvert collapsed, he had been driving en eight-wheel, 31 tonne lorry down the road four times in two days.
He expected the council would be repairing the sides of the road - where a lorry came off recently and ploughed into a ditch - but he still hoped the work would take less time than suggested.
Another resident said: "Forty-five weeks? Are we getting a new shop and a new pub built as well?"
Suffolk County Council said that repair work is being hampered because of the close proximity of overhead power cables.
"An emergency closure has been installed along Farthing Drove, Sedge Fen," said a council spokesman.
"This is due to a damaged culvert which has resulted in a collapse under the road."
The spokesman said: "Due to the thickness of the tarmac the road is holding up and bridging over the hole however, there is a 3m wide void extending at least half the way under the road.
"It is vital that the closure is in place until investigations and repairs are carried out as the extent of the damage means it could give way at any time under the weight of a vehicle."
The council says they are working on designs for the reconstruction of the embankment and culvert and are liaising with contractors to make sure the repairs are completed quickly.
"Due to an overhead high voltage electricity supply which is in close proximity of the collapse, we will be working with UKPN to ensure we can all work safely whilst maintaining power for the local community," said the spokesman.
Concrete closures barriers had been installed either side of where the culvert collapsed "to prevent through traffic and the risk of further collapse and potential road traffic accidents".
Local councillor Colin Noble, said: "I am pressing for rebuild as soon as possible and after Investigation has been done and a solution designed."