East West Rail ‘should move faster to remove Milton Keynes blight’

A councillor in the eye of the storm over plans for an upgraded railway line from Bletchley to Bedford has called for an “interim decision” to remove blight from communities he represents.
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A “non-statutory” consultation exercise closes today (Wednesday) but Cllr David Hopkins has slammed a process that could see a firm decision delayed for months.

“The long delay will lead to anxiety, depression and could trigger mental health issues,” said Cllr Hopkins (Danesborough & Walton) at a meeting yesterday (Tuesday).

“The community is on tenterhooks, especially in Woburn Sands, over the future of its much cherished Edgwick Farm and allotments.

“Homes are blighted, lives disrupted.

“Can we work to have an interim decision on issues such as Edgwick Farm and the future of the allotments made as soon as possible rather than having to suffer an 18-month delay?”

Cllr Hopkins found himself pushing at an open door with MK Council’s leadership who were yesterday crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s on their response to a consultation being carried out by the East West Rail Company.

Both the council and Cllr Hopkins support increasing use of the passenger line which is part of a much bigger project to connect Oxford and Cambridge via Bletchley and Bedford.

East West Rail will have a big impact on Woburn SandsEast West Rail will have a big impact on Woburn Sands
East West Rail will have a big impact on Woburn Sands

But they have called on the company to reconsider aspects of the plans, including the possible closure of stations, the level crossing at Woburn Sands, and the creation of a ‘bypass’ for the town.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked East West Rail whether they would be making some interim decisions to remove blight. This winter (2021-22) has been earmarked for some decisions to be made.

A spokeswoman said once a preferred alignment option has been announced number of options “will be discounted and not taken forward into the final proposals for the railway.”

The company spokeswoman says the “non statutory consultation” which closes today (Wednesday) will be used to “help guide the final preferred design for the project.”

Those final designs will be the subject of a “statutory consultation”, after which the company expects to present final plans to the Government for its approval.

The spokeswoman added: “We’ve sent consultation land plans to landowners who could potentially be affected by our proposals, and our dedicated land team are holding remote meetings with landowners to give support, advice and to share information.

“No homes are currently subject to a compulsory purchase order at this stage.

“Once we have considered the consultation feedback and a final preferred design has been developed, we will be able to provide further information as to what property may need to be acquired in order to deliver the final design for the project and the details of any discretionary purchase scheme that is taken forward.”

Cllr Jenny Wilson-Marklew, MK Council’s cabinet member for climate and sustainability, said the rail plans created an “awful lot of problems”.

She added that the council had amended its responses to the consultation to “reflect the strength of feelings”