Angry Fen villagers explain why they brought in the Grim Reaper and donned face masks and used theatrical coffin in safety protest
- Credit: HARRY RUTTER
Sixty villagers adopted a sombre mood by wearing face masks, carrying a replica coffin and being led by the grim reaper to spotlight the danger posed by 800 lorries that pass through their narrow High Street.
‘Death of a Village’ protestors marched up and down the High Street in Earith near Chatteris in near freezing conditions on Sunday to draw attention to the number of lorries using that cut through the village
The protest came following a planning application submitted by William Dennis, of Dennis (Haddenham) Ltd, who want to build irrigation reservoirs via the extraction of sand and gravel from a site off the A1123 at Hill Row Causeway.
Many of the placards –with slogans such as ‘HGVs disturb our families – and held up by the villagers had been made by local school children
Wendy Oldfield who helped to organise the protest said: “We have already had three people knocked over on the pedestrian crossing –we need protection from this onslaught of vehicles.”
High on their list of concerns, too, is a planning application at nearby Willow Farm for a large scale reservoir that residents fear could bring up to 150 extra lorries per day and for the next seven or eight years through Earith.
She said residents were concerned about the “overwhelming levels of pollution” caused not only by the number of lorries going through Earith daily but the estimated 12,000 cars that also pass through each day.
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“The ‘death of a village’ protest aims to get our residents’ voices heard by both the county and district councils,” she said.
Mrs Oldfield said: “One additional thing we would like to see is the strategic transport route made compulsory, in other words a TRO except for local loading and unloading, then satnav companies will put it on their software along with rural villages to have 20mph limit in place.
“Traffic affects people’s quality of life and vulnerable road users protecting.”
Air pollution is already the “silent killer and noise pollution exceeds the legal limits. We need protection from the killers and need Cambridgeshire County Council to carry out a full safety audit on our road”.
Co-organiser Elizabeth Sandercock and a life long resident of Earith said she still trembled at the memory of the night a lorry driver fell asleep and careered into her High Street home.
“His first reaction was to rush round the front of the lorry to check if anyone had been crushed,” she said.
“We are fed up of our village being used as a rat run. Our protest calls on the county council to enforce the ‘diamond’ policy, whereby lorries bypass the A1123 between Huntingdon and Streatham and instead use the A141, A142, A10 and A14.
“We believe that not only will this reduce the illegal levels of particulate pollution along the High Street, but it will also benefit the companies who use HGVs as they will save on fuel and time costs by using the advised routes.
“Without these changes, we fear that our village will become a lost community and, worse still, that we will soon see a fatality right on our doorsteps.”
MP Shailesh Vara had previously met the villagers to offer support: he hopes for meeting with local councils to find a solution.
The Haddenham farming family has told planners that the reservoirs can be built “without resulting in any material harm to local amenity or the environment and clear policy support exists for the facility that will assist in maintaining high levels of food production”.
They are emphatic that there is “no reason to refuse planning permission for the development as there is no conflict with development plan policies or central governmental advice.”
Their agents told county planners that an independent report considered the need for an additional source of irrigation water at the farm to support “intensive vegetable growing” and added that the works would provide “security and flexibility” to the farm in the event of low rainfall.
Dennis Ltd say lorries going to and from the site will “likely” head towards St Ives via Earith and Bluntisham but that it would be temporary while extraction took place and there was “nothing to suggest there would be any constraints to goods vehicles using the A1123 through the village”.