Mixed reviews on Network Rail’s plans for Hitchin rail curve project

11:40 02 May 2012

An application to widen Wilbury Hills Road was withdrawn.

An application to widen Wilbury Hills Road was withdrawn.

Archant

PLANS to source materials locally in order to complete a multi-million pound rail project threatens to dramatically alter the landscape of a beauty spot popular with walkers.

Network Rail and contractors Hochtief are in the process of constructing a rail flyover in Hitchin to ease rail congestion.

Hitchin Alliance, the organisation formed between Network Rail and Hochtief, submitted an application to the county council on Friday to source chalk for the rail embankment from Wilbury Hill.

It follows an alternative proposal to widen Wilbury Hills Road so that chalk could be transported from 20 miles away being withdrawn by North Herts District Council two weeks ago.

The company also submitted another application to source chalk from the west of Stotfold Road and south of Icknield Way footpath earlier this year.

Resident Paul Palmer contacted the Comet, and criticised the proposals. He called on people to raise objections to the county council.

“We are having to accept, in the name of ‘progress’, the visual impact of the new single-track curved railway embankment across the landscape,” he said.

“They (Network Rail) plan to quarry away the topsoil and chalk of those gentle slopes that give the hill its character, completely changing the landscape of this edge of the Chilterns in the process.”

The news was, however, welcomed by a residents’ association which opposed the road widening.

Barrie Dack, from the Fairfield Park Residents’ Association, said: “The letter we have all received from Hertfordshire County Council about a planning application at Wilbury Hill, spells good news for Fairfield residents.

“The important information which neither the letter nor note explains is that if this proposal if approved, it will eliminate the need for HGVs to bring fill material some 20 miles to the site.

“These were due to come via the A507 and then past Fairfield Park to the site. Some may remember that this was one of the principal objections to the scheme as there would be more than 200 HGVs per day going to and from the site.”

Gary Grindal, Wilbury NHDC councillor, also backed the application.

“I absolutely 100 per cent fully support the proposal,” he told the Comet.

“Clearly, the extraction of the chalk locally will benefit everyone, it will benefit Network Rail, the contractors and, most importantly, the local residents who won’t have to suffer the many lorries. I hope the county council can find it in themselves to support the application as well.

“From what I understand, it won’t be that noticeable. People will notice the huge bank of railway coming through the area a lot more.”

In its application, Hitchin Alliance says that it hopes works to the embankment will be finished in September, if the operation is established from June, with reinstating the ground where chalk will be taken expected to be completed by end of the year.

It adds: “One of the major benefits of the proposed chalk removal from this location is the reduced environmental impact, traffic movement and nuisance reduction that it will provide.

“This quantity of material equates to around 22,000 lorry movements in and out of site. With the use of the locally sourced material, all vehicle movements required to transport the material will be removed from the public highway. Furthermore, each journey will be less than a mile rather than 20 miles from the quarry.”

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