Lottery chiefs set to decide on poll

PUBLISHED: 15:53 13 September 2007 | UPDATED: 15:16 12 May 2010

LOTTERY chiefs will decide shortly whether a bid to help meet the costs of a £3.5 million rail underpass project in Royston has reached the last phase. If the bid succeeds then it could mean the project at Coombes Hole towards providing a much-needed link

LOTTERY chiefs will decide shortly whether a bid to help meet the costs of a £3.5 million rail underpass project in Royston has reached the last phase.

If the bid succeeds then it could mean the project at Coombes Hole towards providing a much-needed link will be included in a winner-takes-all Big Lottery television poll.

The scheme is one which has been submitted in a package from Sustrans, an organisation working on projects to provide sustainable transport.

John Grimshaw, chief executive of Sustrans, said he was "delighted" that the bid had reached the second stage of the short-listing process.

Sustrans under its Connect2 project has produced a bid for 50 local schemes, which includes the development of the subway at Coombes Hole.

Mr Grimshaw said the important part of the submission to the Big Lottery was that each project was "helping to reconnect people to each other".

Once it has decided on the second phase of the shortlist, the Big Lottery will be working on the televised poll - Living Landmarks: the People's Millions.

This is expected to run in December with each project having the opportunity to receive between £25 million - £50 million.

The Coombes Hole project could receive up to £700,000.

But the key to the televisied poll will be public voting - and there is the hope that the Connect2 project will emerge as the winner against three other projects.

Royston's county councillor Doug Drake, who is leading an interest group on the subway project, said: "Once the television vote is taking place it is vital and in everyone's interest to support and vote for the project."

Meanwhile, the group is helping to highlight the project with a publicty campaign and photo-shot at Coombes Hole on Thursday, September 27 at 12.30pm.

Public attending will be able to raise questions about the project and the Big Lottery bid.

Cllr Drake told a recent meeting of the interest group that the question of funding for the project from Herts County Council was working its way through the corridors of power at County Hall.

The county council's Cabinet will eventually decide over the funding, but it is hoped that work on the project will be able to start at Christmas, 2009.

There have already been discussions with Network Rail and there will have to be further talks once a contractor is chosen for the project.

Meanwhile, North Herts District Council has earmarked £60,000 in its budget for the project.

Proposals for a rail crossing came after the county council ran a public consultation exercise earlier this year.

The idea of a bridge which would link Coombes Hole and the Burns Road area was originally mooted, but it was decided that a subway would be more appropriate.

Since then the county council has been working on designs for the subway.

Cllr Drake said "a great deal of effort" had gone into the design and location of the proposed subway.

"It a necessary cross-link which will be connecting one community with the other," he said.

The campaign over providing a safe rail crossing has been running for more than 20 years.

In the past there has been hope of providing a crossing, but these have always been thwarted due to a lack of funding and other complications.

Sir Clive Booth, chairman of the Big Lottery Fund, said the bids for the shortlist had seen "many excellent proposals".

But he added: "Ultimately the final say lies in the hands of the voting public.

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