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National Trust ready to fight East West Rail routes

The National Trust has objected to plans that could see the new East West Rail route impact the landscape of one of its country homes.

Wimpole Hall and paprterre. (7135774)
Wimpole Hall and paprterre. (7135774)

Three of the five routes suggested for the new line between Oxford and Cambridge would pass through land close to or across the historically significant South Avenue on the Wimpole Estate.

Concerns have also been raised that some routes pass close to the RSPB The Lodge in Sandy, listed buildings and scheduled monuments.

The National Trust said in a statement on its website: “We have been clear throughout the process to date that we would oppose any proposal that would damage Wimpole Estate or its setting.”

The renowned garden designer, Charles Bridgeman, extended the South Avenue across the Roman road at Wimpole in 1721 and it has remained untouched since.

National Trust's Wimpole Hall, showing the surrounding landscape (7182087)
National Trust's Wimpole Hall, showing the surrounding landscape (7182087)

Paul Forecast Regional Director for the National Trust in the East of England said:

“Wimpole Hall and Grade 1 listed parkland in which it sits is one of the most widely recognised places cared for by the National Trust in the East of England. It is admired for its breath-taking scale and unrivalled in its dramatic views of the Cambridgeshire countryside. The landscape here provides a home for a huge variety of wildlife and offers a much-loved place for both the local community and visitors from further afield to explore.

“The consultation looking at routes for the proposed East-West Rail scheme has gone live and of the five proposed routes, three of them would have an impact on the landscape at Wimpole Hall. We have been clear throughout the process to date that we would oppose any proposal that would damage Wimpole Hall or its setting.

“We strongly urge East-West Rail to look at other options that avoid damaging this special place. Whilst we recognise the need for improved public transport, we are clear that we will oppose any scheme that will irreparably damage such a wonderful place when alternatives are available.

“We will continue to actively work with all those involved to ensure that the special nature of this part of the country and the places we look after are safeguarded for future generations to enjoy.”

The East West Rail route could mean new stations for Cambourne, Bassingbourne, Bedford, St Neots and Tempsford.

A public consultation about the plans will run until March 11.

Simon Blanchflower, chief executive of East West Railway Company, said: “Each of the five options out for consultation will bring significant benefits for the communities the new rail line will connect, but each comes with its own challenges and potential environmental effects. We have made a clear commitment to minimising negative impacts the project might have on the local environment – whichever route is ultimately chosen – and we continue to explore ways to deliver environmental improvements.”

He added: “If we were to select a route alignment which crosses Wimpole Hall Avenue, we would continue to explore mitigation methods including creating a cutting, a cut-and-cover solution, or a tunnel – all of which are already being discussed with the National Trust and Historic England.”

Rupert Masefield, spokesman for the RSPB, said: “Barely 7 per cent of the growth corridor by area is protected for nature, and any further net loss of what remains would be unacceptable.”

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