On the 20th January, Harpur Councillors Colleen Atkins and Louise Jackson wrote to Simon Blanchflower, CEO of East West Rail (EWR) to express their disappointment that residents would be excluded from Local Representatives Groups, and also that they had been formed without consulting councillors.
They received a reply to their letter on 14th February. (Attached below)
Cllr Atkins said: Following Cllr Jackson, my, and Mohammad Yasin’s request, I welcome EWR’s recognition of the special circumstances of Poets and Ashburnham Road residents and their commitment to engaged with these residents outside of the statutory consultation.
This is noted in the following paragraph of EWR’s response: “That said, we also recognise the specific circumstances for residents in Poets and Ashburnham Road. Since all the Covid-19 restrictions ended, we have been actively looking at how best we can interact with them as well as with other residents and landowners across the route who may be acutely affected by the project.”
It is vital that EWR fully engages directly with affected residents and as EWR have committed to coming back to us as local councillors and Mohammad Yasin MP with their plans for resident engagement, we will continue to press them for this to happen.
It is hugely disappointing that EWR have confirmed in the letter that the new proposals will now not be released until the summer of this year. They have stated that: “Initially we had aimed to finish this work early in 2022, but we now believe it is more likely to be ready to publish in the summer of 2022.”
They say the delay is due to the large number of consultation responses and the need to work through these, but this should have been factored into EWR’s initial timetable. This update is therefore extremely disappointing as it means residents who would be directly affected by a 6 track proposal continue to be left in limbo for even longer.
The uncertainty being experienced causes extreme distress both in terms of practical actions, such as moving house, making house improvements, or any form of long term planning, but also the impact it has on residents’ mental health which cannot be understated. We will continue to engage with EWR to stress the impact of delays and press for the proposals to be released as soon as possible.
The first meeting of the Town Local Representative Groups (includes Poets area), is on Monday 21st February. The agenda, which has been set by EWR, contains two main items - a ‘Project Update’ by EWR and topics to discuss at future meetings. There may be more news after that.
The letter also reminds: “Please let any concerned resident, landowner or member of the public know that they can continue to contact us and raise their questions and concerns at any time by: Emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org; Calling us on 0330 1340067 or writing to us at FREEPOST East West Rail.”