Regarding the construction of a light-controlled crossing in the High Street, Higham Ferrers, on the corner of Wharf Road, together with a second crossing at the same corner, only 50m or so away from a well-established crossing of the same type, I was concerned that, recently, our mayor stated that the first our town council knew about this was when it was too late to have any influence over it, so I made a few phone calls to check.
I spoke to the economic development officer at East Northants Council, who informed me that this crossing was part of the Rushden, Higham Ferrers, Irthlingborough Greenway project, and that the project manager was an officer with Northamptonshire County Council.
I asked who was on the project board, and was told it was made up of a district councillor from Rushden, a county councillor from Irthlingborough, himself, the county project manager and a representative from Rockingham Forest Trust, one of the funding partners, but no representatives from Higham Ferrers.
I asked about the choice of route and why create another two crossings at a cost of many thousands of pounds when an adequate crossing already existed.
He said that the route was agreed by the board.
I suggested had there been an input from Higham Ferrers, a more cost-effective route would have been proposed to continue along the railway track bed to its terminus to the rear of Higham Library, thus creating the pedestrian access to the Ferrers School the town has been asking for over the past 20 years; then north, along Midland Road, through the Castle Field footpath to College Street, along to the existing light-controlled crossing some 30m north, and then into the back lane and on into Irthlingborough, thus reducing the use of main roads and saving the costs of the crossings in High Street.
I must point out that for cyclists to use the new crossing, they will have to travel about 50m along the footpath, thus breaking the law.
The whole project has been funded through the obtaining of grant aid from various sources, one
being the Rockingham Forest Trust.
As part of the grant application, the funders have to be satisfied that full consultation has taken place with all parties directly or indirectly affected by the scheme. The mayor’s statement tells me that in Higham Ferrers this did not take place.
Indeed, the economic development officer informed me that both he and the project manager met our mayor and county councillor on November 21, 2011; as work began on January 3, 2012, the contracts had already been signed, contracts exchanged, route and start date agreed – therefore, this was not consultation.
The funders for the scheme must look at the application again to ensure they are not complicit in any way to any possible breaches in the law, and the moral of the story is, if you want to alter Higham Ferrers, then ask, especially as our town council is now consulting on a Town Plan that may see the removal of both these crossings and possible changes to the High Street to improve car parking.