Essex leaders call for changes to the A12 Widening Scheme to reflect future transport needs

A Welcome to Essex road sign on the side of a busy road with cars and trucks on

Council leaders have written to the head of National Highways to express significant concerns about proposals for two sections of the A12 which are planned to be detrunked. These sections will be transferred to us.

The leaders of Essex County Council, Braintree District Council and Colchester City Council said the plans for the A12 Chelmsford to A120 Widening Scheme between Junction 19 (Boreham) and Junction 25 (Marks Tey) are supported overall. However, the current proposals for the detrunked sections do not align with local or central Government priorities around promoting safety, sustainable transport and green infrastructure.

As part of the widening scheme, National Highways is proposing to build new sections of the A12 away from the existing road and detrunk two existing sections. These sections are between Feering and Marks Tey and Witham and Rivenhall. They will be transferred to us to maintain and operate as local roads, largely in their current form.

We have developed alternative proposals for the detrunked sections, which would see one carriageway in each direction converted into an ‘Active Travel Corridor’. This would provide good off-road provision for walking, cycling and horse-riding, as well as additional planting and adding more green space to the area.

The alternative proposals would reduce the dual carriageway into single carriageway and reduce the speed limit. Having put forward alternative proposals to address the issues, council leaders are urging National Highways to incorporate these into its plans and work with local communities to develop them in more detail.

Cllr Kevin Bentley, Leader of Essex County Council, said: “With work expected to begin on the A12 widening project next year, it is crucial Essex County Council and National Highways work closely together to get it right.

“Doing so means we can ensure the project delivers for the users of the A12 and serves the local communities in providing them with access that encourages more sustainable modes of transport.”

Cllr Lesley Wagland OBE, ECC Cabinet Member for Economic Renewal, Infrastructure and Planning, said: “The widening of the A12 is an important project that will future-proof part of an important strategic link between London, Essex and wider East Anglia.

“However, the current plans for detrunking are not fit for purpose and there is an opportunity here to go much further, and develop a transport link that will better serve commuters and the surrounding communities for many years to come.

“It is vital National Highways recognise this and we do not end up in a situation where Essex County Council needs to carry out significant, disruptive works in the future to implement changes that ensure the roads serve their intended purpose.”

Leader of Colchester County Council Cllr David King said: “We need key agencies to work with each other, and to take the opportunities as they arise to support sustainable transport. I ask government listens to Essex and responds as it should to local need and knowledge.”

Dan Gascoyne, Chief Executive at Braintree District Council, said: “We remain supportive of much-needed road improvements to the A12 as our residents, road users, businesses and the wider economy would reap the benefits. We hope National Highways take on board our concerns and will work in collaboration with councils and residents to deliver a scheme that not only helps relieve congestion and cut journey times, but also uses the opportunity to encourage sustainable travel and green infrastructure.”

The proposals are currently subject to public examination, which will result in a recommendation from the Planning Inspectorate on whether consent for the project should be granted. We recently submitted detailed information on the changes it wishes to make to the plans. A decision on whether the scheme can go ahead is expected to be made by the Secretary of State for Transport in early 2024.

Read more about our alternative proposals.