Council votes to go from A to B

High Street, Wilburton, congested with HGVs on a regular basis

High Street, Wilburton, congested with HGVs on a regular basis - Credit: Lorna Dupre

The A1123 between Huntingdon and Ely could be downgraded to a B road after a majority vote by the county council. 

The Conservative group on Cambridgeshire County Council passed a motion on Tuesday requesting highways officers “pursue” the downgrading of the A1123 and A1421. 

Cllr Bill Hunt argued that owing to the investment made in the A14 the council should take the step to reduce congestion and discourage HGV use on the A1123, and so improve the lives of residents in the villages it currently “divides in two”. 

He said making the change would allow for altered signage and may also reduce the likelihood the route would be suggested by Sat Navs. 

Cllr Hunt said the decision would “dramatically improve the quality of life” and “change the lives of thousands of people and will be an inspiration to other areas to perhaps follow suit”. 

He said also argued it would reduce maintenance costs. 

Lib Dem Lorna Dupre said: “I’m wearing my Alice in Wonderland earrings today, as I usually do when I’m attending a council meeting at which something even more absurd than usual is about to be decided.  

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“They’re particularly apt today, because it’s in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that the Queen of Hearts makes her famously preposterous demand. “Sentence first—verdict afterwards.” 

“And that’s where this motion is today, really. It puts forward an answer to a problem that it hasn’t properly considered.  

“It completely ignores the council’s policy on such matters, and its requirement for evidence, facts, and reasoned argument. And jumps feet-first into an unproven conclusion, with no consideration of its effects on other roads and other communities. 

“Cllr Hunt has referred to the officers’ briefing on this motion. Well, downgrading the A1123 will, on officers’ calculations, cost the council some quarter of a million pounds a year in lost maintenance funding. But it is highly unlikely to reduce either the cost of maintaining the road or the amount of traffic on it. 

“To take just two examples, the B1381 through Sutton, and the B1050 through Willingham, both of which intersect the A1123, also experience unacceptable volumes of HCV traffic, despite their classification as B roads. 

“The amendment that has just been rejected would at least have taken a wider view of the issue. Because it is an issue. A significant issue.  

“Not just for Cllr Hunt and the residents he represents. But also, for the residents of Sutton, Willingham, Godmanchester, Cottenham, and many other towns and villages who have been campaigning for years against this blight on their communities—a blight this council has ignored for far too long, and is likely to continue to ignore so long as it remains under the present administration. 

“We will wait to see the evidence to justify what is being proposed: the strategic role of the road, the general level of traffic and proportion of goods vehicles it carries, wider traffic management and routing strategies in the vicinity, and the standard and classification of other nearby roads. “We will wait to see the technical evaluation, and to hear whether this proposal complies with Government guidance.  

“We will await a full financial analysis, and a study of the impact on other parts of the road network.  

“And at that point we will be able to take a considered view on whether this quarter-million-pound proposal can be justified (as it must be) to Government ministers.” 

Council leader Steve Count, criticised the Liberal Democrats, saying “if you say you are for the downgrading of an A road to a B road then you have one option – you vote for it. 

“And if you vote against it then the public and I and the Conservative group know that you really were against it”. 

He spoke of his own experience using the road, and said “if you drive on it, it would not be a difficult decision”. 

The motion was passed with 37 votes in favour and 19 abstentions. 

The county council said the Department for Transport retains ultimate responsibility and will have to be made aware of any proposed changes, and can object. 

The council said its executive director responsible for highways will be tasked with determining if there are significant financial implications or wider impacts on the road network prior to a decision being taken.