A resident in the Option E search area who I will call Jane, recently had her garden surveyed by people from East West Rail. We understand from talking to Ardent, that the surveys were performed by the Engineering company Arup on behalf of EWR. Jane is an ecologist by profession and so is well placed to comment for us at Cambridge Approaches. She sets out her experience below.
“Our garden was surveyed in the summer to inform the EWR route alignment. The pair of surveyors recorded the surrounds of our property. I asked them what they’d discovered from the desk studies that should have been undertaken prior to detailed ecological surveys. They did not know of any desk studies, or had not been made aware of the findings of any such studies. They did not know when, or if, they would be surveying neighbouring gardens or fields.
Following this, I emailed EWR to ask for clarification on the ecology surveys.
Specifically, I asked:
Q: Have ecological desk studies been undertaken? If not, why not?
Q. How can a comprehensive understanding of the ecology of an area be gained from discrete, isolated (in time and spatially) surveys? For example, we know that badgers forage in our garden. This may not be immediately apparent from one brief survey (though we did tell the surveyors). How will you identify the badger setts in the surrounding area if you a) don’t carry out desk studies to find out what local records exist, and b) if you don’t survey the fields where the setts are found?
Q. Could you please outline the broad areas over which ecological surveys are taking place? i.e. could you confirm that ecological surveys are being carried out across the whole swathe of the outlined area, not just the narrow band to the south of the outlined area.
Q. What stage of the environmental assessment process is the project at? Scoping? Screening?
I sent my queries by email on 29 June and 10 July, and again on 12 August. I have not, to date, received answers.
Given that the planned public consultation on this project did not take place, the lack of communication from the EWR project is extremely disappointing.
In EWR’s own words, they will “work hard to earn the trust of anyone who might be impacted by the railway by being transparent and clear at every stage” (quote from “Connecting Communities: The Preferred Route Option between Bedford and Cambridge”. This has yet to be demonstrated.”
It seems that from Jane’s experience that there are questions to be answered about the value of the ecological surveys being performed by East West Rail. These surveys are all paid for with hard-earned tax-payers money. Will they actually provide accurate information to guide the routing and necessary mitigations for the railway. Jane clearly has her doubts. It is also disappointing that EWR have not responded to her.