East West Rail confirm in-person meetings for Poets’ residents whose homes hang in the balance

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Details of homes under threat in the Poets Area of Bedford
Details of homes under threat in the Poets Area of Bedford

East West Rail Co has confirmed that it will hold in-person meetings with residents in the Poets and Ashburnham areas of Bedford, but the local MP fears that it might be too late to earn the trust of the affected communities.

On Friday, the MP for Bedford and Kempston, Mohammad Yasin attended the first of East West Rail’s Local Engagement Plan Meetings, the company’s attempt to improve communications with local representatives and the community.

The meeting was attended by Harpur and Castle Councillors and set out the company’s plans for improved resident engagement.

For owners of directly affected properties

EWR will be holding surgery-style appointments from 25 April for residents and owners of directly affected properties in the Poets and Ashburnham areas.

Residents will be invited to book half hour appointments to discuss concerns or issues and can take place virtually.

For Poets’ and Ashburnham residents

EWR has confirmed that there will be an in-person public meeting specifically for Poets’ and Ashburnham residents.

There will also be a separate, in-person meeting that any resident in Bedford can attend.

Harpur ward councillors, Louise Jackson and Colleen Atkins said: “We have pressed EWR at every opportunity to meet in person with Poets’ residents so we are pleased that at last this has been agreed.

“Affected residents have lived with uncertainty every day for a year and want meaningful conversations and answers. We are disappointed EWR have delayed announcing their proposals till the ‘summer’ prolonging the anxiety being felt so it’s important that residents can speak directly with EWR.

“As ward councillors, we cannot support demolition of homes and stressed the impact this is having and urged that proposals be released urgently.”

Mohammad Yasin MP
Mohammad Yasin MP in the House of Commons

Following the meeting, Mohamad Yasin MP said: “I am pleased EWR have listened to the concerns raised by Councillors Colleen Atkins, Louise Jackson and myself for the need for better engagement with our community, especially about the impact of EWR for Poets and Ashburnham Road residents, and at times that suit people, but it’s a shame it’s taken so long to enact an engagement strategy that should have been there from the beginning.

“I’m afraid it may now be too late for EWR to earn the trust of the local community following two problematic consultations, one of which has now been delayed.

“What residents need is to see the proposals to have some clarity on what is happening so they can plan for the best- and worst-case scenarios.

“If these meetings are a genuine attempt to address this, and properly answer all the reasonable questions residents need to have answers to, I’m all for it, but it can’t just be another tick-box PR exercise for the DFT which only prolongs the agony for our constituents.

“This is a genuine opportunity for EWR to repair relations with the community and to finally engage in a meaningful and honest dialogue. I want to support much-needed investment into Bedford and Kempston, but not at any cost.”

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