Cycling champion – and former councillor – John Morris is threatening direct action to remove one or more ‘unnecessary’ kissing gates that he says are making cyclists lives a misery.
Mr Morris, founder of Founder of Hunts Walking & Cycling Group, says he is fed up with the promised removal of the kissing gates and now plans to remove one or more of them himself.
The gates allow people to pass through at Views Common, Huntingdon.
He has invited the press to join him at 3pm on Thursday June 8 when he says will take direct action to remove them.
“I’m hoping I don’t get locked up in the Huntingdon jail house for taking direct action,” he said.
He has released a lengthy correspondence with National Highways who he claims had taken far too long “to lift off these unnecessary kissing gates which serve no purpose”.
His latest email to National Highways earlier this month threatened that “if the gates are not removed within 21 days of this email, I will go down there myself with a photographer and remove the gates myself.
“I think you can tell I am increasingly frustrated with the lack of action by National Highways over many years and if necessary, I will take direct action to solve this problem which has a simple low-cost solution”.
21 days deadline lapsed – now see what happens
Mr Morris told National Highways: “The 21 days has now elapsed. I therefore give you formal notice that I will be attending Views Common on Thursday 8th June at 3pm with my spanner to remove one or more of the three kissing gates on the Stukeley Meadows side of Views Common.
“All welcome to join me including any of our local councillors who would like to witness this historic and long overdue event.
“The removal of three of these kissing gates will facilitate active and sustainable travel from Stukeley Meadows to Hinchingbrooke School, Cromwell Academy, Hinchingbrooke Hospital and Hinchingbrooke Country Park.”
Mr Morris has been corresponding with Martin Edwards, project manager for the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon Improvement Scheme/ Complex Infrastructure Programme/Major Projects for National Highways.
On May 9, Mr Edwards wrote to Mr Morris saying that “firstly, I do appreciate that there is considerable frustration within the local community regarding the Views Common NMU and the surrounding area and the perceived lack of progress being made in replacing the old kissing gates.
“I also appreciate that the current kissing gates are causing cyclists’ severe inconvenience.
“However, I can confirm that we have been exploring various design options for some time.
“Although this has taken longer than expected, it is essential that we take a ‘right first time’ approach to ensure we spend taxpayers’ money appropriately.
“In removing the old kissing gates when installing the new design this is also the most cost-effective approach.”
Innovative designs considered
Mr Edwards added: “As you already know, we have been investigating some of the more innovative designs.
“However, having looked at the designs in more detail, they have had to be rejected due to the very slight possibility of cattle potentially escaping.
“Clearly this is disappointing to hear but the health & safety of those who use the Common (and the cattle) remains our number one imperative.”
Mr Edwards said he had been in contact with the land agent representing Huntingdon Freeman’s Trust on a regular basis “and I am confident we will shortly have the design for the new gates available to inspect.
“I thank you for your continuing patience and understanding”.
Mr Edwards added: “As a result, I would ask that you do not take the matter into your own hands and remove the old kissing gates, as tempting as this may seem.
“I will update you (and those copied into this email) as soon as I received confirmation on the replacement design for the old kissing gates.”
Please remove the kissing gates
Mr Morris pleaded with National Highways to remove the kissing gates – on the north side of the old A14 – as a temporary measure “until you have agreed the design of a permanent solution”.
It was in that email of May 4, that Mr Morris gave his 21-day ultimatum.
“I tried to take my bike through the kissing gate again this morning – see photo,” he wrote to Mr Edwards.
“The opening is so small I needed to lift my bike to get through. Not a great advert for promoting active travel!
“A lady walking her dog stopped and spoke to me to say she has the same problem with her bike every day as this is her commuting route to Hinchingbrooke Hospital.
“How much longer do local residents have to suffer this inconvenience?
In an earlier email, Mr Morris said: “As far as I am aware no livestock has grazed in this field for many years so removing the kissing gates would be greatly beneficial to encourage active travel.
“In the event of livestock returning, the gates could be easily put back on. All it needs is a spanner to remove the bolt so a very quick and easy job.
“Huntingdonshire District Council has already done this to a kissing gate at Nun’s bridge leading to Hinchingbrooke County Park and it have been very popular with park users.
Low-cost quick win
“We discussed lifting off kissing gates last summer and you kindly agreed to look into the possibility of doing this.
“Removing these 3 gates would be a low-cost quick win.
And in another email, from April, Mr Morris said: “We will be really disappointed if the design is finalised by Highways England before we have an opportunity to comment on the proposal as a key stakeholder and user group.
“Please can you share with me the current draft design so we can give you constructive feedback?
“We have unfortunately had the recent experience of not being consulted on the design for cycling parking provision in Huntingdonshire which resulted in a poorly designed facility that was not fit for purpose in some of the chosen locations.
“We don’t wish to see a poorly designed facility being repeated on the Views Common NMU route.”
Camcycle told Mr Morris they would be interested, too, in seeing the designs.
They were concerned about the kissing gate aspect, suggesting aa normal gate would be more inclusive “and we would like to ensure that the cattle grids can be crossed by buggies/wheelchairs”.
Mr Edwards had earlier told Mr Morris: “We have been looking at a number of hybrid gates, however, our main concern is that as it will be a new untried design, we need to ensure it is 100% safe and secure.
“We have concluded that to ensure this, further off-site safety testing would be needed to ensure it fully meets everyone’s requirements.
“As a result, we have decided to progress with a kissing gate/cattle grid design which has already been fully tested (and meets British standards).
“This option has been accepted by Huntingdon Freemans Trust and Cambridgeshire County Council as being the safest and most secure option that will still provide an element of unfettered access to all cyclists.
“The exact design is being finalised and I will be happy to share with you as soon as this is agreed.”
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