The Histon and Impington community have taken tree replanting into their own hands.
Five years after the A14 upgrade began, residents on the outskirts of Cambridge are still living in a “harsh, concrete environment” and hearing the “constant hum” of the road.
Impington designer and mum-of-three Ros Hathorn was left shocked when a swathe of trees protecting her house from the major road were suddenly felled in April 2018.
Last week it was revealed that “a large proportion” of the nearly one million trees planted in mitigation of the Cambridge to Huntingdon scheme have died.
Ros said: “It’s devastating to live somewhere where you were surrounded by trees, particularly near the road, and now you’ve lost all that.”
She says that Highways England have “left this area completely decimated, with no planting,” and the noise barrier has fallen short of residents' expectations.
Galvanised by the tree loss, HI (Histon and Impington) Trees Action Group, has fundraised and worked to plant 850 trees as a ‘green gateway’ to the villages from Junction 32, in a field near the Holiday Inn.
Though time is running out in this year’s planting season, Highways England says they will complete their own planting scheme before Easter.
Noise pollution from the A road is a related but separate point of contention for residents.
Ros claims that in an initial consultation with Highways England the noise barrier was set to be 250m, more than double the 120m protection subsequently erected.
“When they came to build it was changed to 120,” she said, “we kept on raising this with them, and in a meeting, they said it was just a typo in the original consultation. But that’s just simply not good enough.”
Highways England countered that the noise barriers are as billed in the Development Consent Order (DCO) application, although it is not clear which sections of the road are referred to, with a range of barrier heights suggested near Impington.
The government company says a recommendation was made post-DCO approval to extend the sound barrier, but this could not go ahead because of a high-pressure gas main in the way, which could not be disturbed without ‘excessive cost’.
Instead, an ‘ultra-low-noise surfacing’ was applied to the road surface, but this has not satisfied the residents - and its limited life span is a further concern.
Ros added: “Whenever I drive [on the A14] I’m astonished by how many nose barriers there are and how few houses you can see.
“So it is noticeable that when you reach Histon and Impington that you can see the community from the A14 and we’re not protected by the noise barrier.”
Living on Cambridge Road with three young children, Ros said her family and neighbours are in “a really harsh, tarmac-y, concrete environment, with the constant hum of the road in your house where there wasn’t a hum before.”
“You can’t escape the noise,” she said.
The site near Junction 32 where the HI Trees planting is taking place, with blocks 1 and 2 almost filled. 'E' marks where 30 elms are due to be planted by Highways England, donated by the Butterfly Conservation Eastern Region charity.
A Highways England spokesperson said: "Upgrading the A14 in Cambridge is a massive job and it’s vital to Highways England that local residents experience all the benefits of the project as soon as possible.
“However, it's important to remember that while the early opening of the Huntingdon Southern bypass was a huge milestone, there are still some parts of the projects that continue to be worked on.
"We appreciate that living near a busy construction site isn't easy and we'd like to thank local residents for their ongoing patience while we complete this work."