A Nightmare Journey

If there is one thing worse than the pain of air travel it is the pain of queuing on a motorway, and how many times have you said to yourself “well it can only get better” for it then to become worse. So the objective was to get from Okehampton, Devon to St Neots as quickly and safely as possible – I had been on holiday wiith my son, his daughter and her brother.

We joined the A30 at noon with 20 miles to go to the M5, it was misty and drizzling. After about 10 miles we joined a queue causing us to start looking for alternative routes – I quite fancied the A303, but thank goodness we didn’t go that way as it was closed for 4 hours. So the M5 it was and as soon as we got onto it the traffic ground to a halt. The next 3 hours were a mile of crawling then two miles of normal speed – we only covered 60 miles in this time. The traffic news advised that the queues were beyond Bristol and also the M42 was at a standstill between the M40 and the M6.

Enough was enough, we turned off and headed deep into Somerset. The speed increased but there were many towns en route however we finally got to the M4 before Swindon and the traffic was moving at a good lick. The next choice was either taking the A34 via Oxford or to stay on the M4 and head for the M25 where we new there were queues but hopefully they would be gone by the time we arrived ……… no they weren’t and in fact had spread back onto the M4. However by the time we reached Watford, some 5 junctions later, traffic was moving again but a pit stop was required at South Mimms.

Until this point my old Merc – Mavis – had coped well with the conditions although was running hot in the queues. For some reason when we got going again the temperature just continued to rise. Half a mile from reaching the kid’s home she gave up the ghost spewing her blood everywhere. The RAC were called and about 75 minutes later we were all loaded onto a flatbed and heading home. That should have been the end of the sorry story but, of coure the A14 was closed for resurfacing so a detour through Cambridge and around Newmarket was in order – the final straw.

Twelve and a half hours and 340 miles after starting out we were finally home – we could have got back from America quicker! If our population continues to increase at the rate it is our roads are going to fail us, if they haven’t already.

Picture - Merc

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Excessive Development – Can We Cope?

Growth is a key strategic priority – encouraged by financial rewards from Central Government – but can the infrastructure cope? Our roads are already at bursting point, especially at rush hour. If you live in Pinewood there are limited exit points – the Holiday Inn junction and the roundabout at Tescos. In the morning it can take 20 to 30 minutes to get out of the Parish, so what will the impact be of planned new developments and should there be a point at which we say enough is enough?

After years of inactivity – Suffolk One was the last major development – we are now faced with a glut of applications:

> Chantry Vale (on land behind the Holiday Inn) – 350 houses and 70 businesses with exits opposite the Hadleigh Road traffic lights on the A1071;

> Belstead House and Meadows – 155 houses and a 65 bedroom care home;

> Belstead School – doubling in size;

> ‘Fred Olsen’ site – 200 to 300 office block;

> 24 hour veterinary unit;

> Aldi store next to Suffolk One;

> Sugar Beet site – possibly hundreds of houses and many businesses.

If all of these go ahead we could be looking at an additional 4,000 vehicle movements per day – mainly at the busy periods. Surely this is madness and we have to start saying no to some of those developments listed above. Is it right that the last one(s) to apply should be penalised? This could be a problem as the likely latest ones are already in our Strategic Plan. Surely we have to be more proactive than that but will we get the support for this approach from the Inspectors should any refused application be refused. You would like to think so but I just don’t think that we are good at seeing the bigger picture.

Watch the ever shrinking space!