Cambs railway plans 'crime against countryside', charity warns

A farming charity is calling for a change to a proposed route going through productive arable farmland
A farming charity is calling for a change to a proposed route going through productive arable farmland

East West Rail's (EWR) plans to build a railway line in Cambridgeshire has been slammed as a "crime against the countryside" by a farming charity.

The Countryside Regeneration Trust (CRT) has called for EWR to change its proposed route through productive arable farmland, known as Westfield.

The charity, which owns 400-acre Lark Rise Farm near the villages of Barton and Comberton, has also raised concerns about ecological surveys carried out by EWR on its land.

The CRT has urged EWR to work with them to protect the specialist habitat at the farm and to rethink its proposal for the southern route through Cambridgeshire.

Its conservation officer, Vince Lea, said the charity had written an open letter to EWR calling for action.

“The route will be disastrous for the Cambridgeshire countryside," he warned, adding that it is the most expensive of the options previously suggested.

“EWR will take out a vast area of productive farmland, not just under the footprint of the railway line itself but all the surrounding land used during the construction or converted into 'mitigation' features.

"We would like to talk to them about the environmental impact and can share the results of our long-term monitoring of the site, with over 20 years of breeding bird surveys, winter bird counts, otter and water vole surveys.”

Tim Scott, the tenant farmer at Lark Rise Farm for 30 years, warned that nature and productive farmland would be 'lost' if the plans went ahead.

"We are in the 24th year of nature recovery at Lark Rise. We have numerous red list species, and we are in the top one per cent of our county for these species and most, if not all of these, will be lost because of the railway."

An EWR spokesperson said: “We recognise the important role agriculture, the environment and biodiversity play in the local community and that’s why we are committed to delivering 10% Biodiversity Net Gain along the East West Rail route.

“At every stage, we’ve assessed the environmental impacts on important areas like farmland and countryside and we’re focused on finding solutions that avoid or reduce negative impacts to the environment.

“Whilst we acknowledge that the northern approach has slightly lower environmental impacts, the route we are taking forward offers an environmentally sustainable solution that also has the benefits of fast, reliable services to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus."