The preferred route for the A12 widening from Chelmsford to Marks Tey is now known, but it does not necessarily give “communities along the A12 much-needed certainty”, as Witham MP Priti Patel claims.

Despite years of local meetings with Highways England, we still do not have important details agreed such as where HGVs will go or how other local access arrangements will work when the number of junctions on the A12 is reduced. This will particularly impact Hatfield Peverel, Rivenhall End and Kelvedon.

Making the A12 safer and more effective is important, but so too is ensuring that this once-in-a-generation opportunity is taken to improve public transport, boost cycling and reconnect public rights of way.

Many footpaths were simply cut through decades ago when the current A12 was built and could now be reconnected with footbridges or tunnels.

The Government has announced more money for cycling and recently published “Gear Change: A bold vision for cycling and walking”, so there is hope that a more balanced transport strategy will be followed. Simply building ever more road space for ever more vehicles will not solve congestion in the long term and would not meet the Government’s own stated green aims, such as improving air quality and tackling climate change.

A key opportunity as part of the A12 work could be for Highways England and Essex County Council to work together to ensure there is a segregated cycle path along the A12 corridor all the way from Chelmsford to Marks Tey.

This could use sections of the old road and new cycling paths to connect into Witham, the local villages and the railway stations along the way.

Many local people tell me how they would love to be able to cycle more to work or for other local trips, but that currently sharing the roads with fast and heavy traffic is intimidating.

The combined cost of the widened A12 and the proposed new A120 will likely be around £2billion. A decent share of that money needs to be devoted to improvements for local communities.

Cllr James Abbott

Green Party County Councillor, Witham Northern