Agenda item

21/00388/CCD

Construction of footbridge, works to public rights of way, construction of soft and hard landscaping, surface and subsurface drainage, utilities and other services, boundary treatment and other associated works.

Land South East Of Chase Meadows, Chase Farm Drive, Blyth, Northumberland

Minutes:

Construction of footbridge, works to public rights of way, construction of soft and hard landscaping, surface and subsurface drainage, utilities and other services, boundary treatment and other associated works.  

Land South East Of Chase Meadows, Chase Farm Drive, Blyth, Northumberland

 

G. Halliday, Consultant Planner introduced the application to the Committee with the aid of a power point presentation.  Updates were provided as follows:-

 

·        The report had not included information on the planned construction time.  The estimated construction of the bridge on site would be 10 – 12 weeks.  If consent was received it would be hoped to start on site in late spring/early summer 2022 with restoration to take place in winter 2022/23. 

·        Subject to the committee granting permission the applicant was prepared to meet with the residents backing onto the scheme and to discuss the detailed planting and screening proposals which would then be submitted to the Local Planning Authority for approval.

·        Condition 14 should include “Reason: In the interest of users of the Public Rights of Way. 

 

 

As this was the first planning committee for some Members following induction training, the Director of Planning reinforced how the report identified the key material considerations and policies.

 

 

Mr G Thompson addressed the Committee speaking in objection to the application. His comments included the following:-

 

His house backed onto the railway line, not exactly where the footbridge was proposed but to the south east, but he did see what went on a daily basis.  There were issues with the Public Right of Way (PROW), which he now felt was too dangerous to access with a dog due to young people going across the line to gather and drink alcohol with the result of lots of broken glass and antisocial behaviour occurring.  Reports were made on a regular basis to the Police on the antisocial behaviour with them attending and removing the offenders, with no further action taken.  The footbridge would only make this situation worse.  The public footpath on the other side of the rail line led across a farmers field and then to the A189 where a very difficult and dangerous crossing existed, however if you did manage to cross the A189 then it was impossible to access the PROW due to hedges and fences.  The other route of the footpath was across the edge of the golf course.  Neither the golf club or the farmer liked the PROW being used due to the amount of glass etc being left by the young people.   The proposed bridge was a bridge to nowhere and it would be of more benefit for it to be  provided over the spine road or if the footbridge actually went to the proposed station, but it did not.  He advised that residents did not object to the return of the passenger service along the line, which was very much welcomed, they only objected to the provision of the proposed bridge and another solution could be sought such as automated gates.

 

He disputed the figure quoted of 89 people per day using the crossing, he had checked his CCTV and could not count 89 people unless they included 20 – 30 young people going in both directions.  The planting talked about was not on the residential side and this was something that needed to be looked at.   In conclusion he stated that the residents did not object to the line, but there must be a better way to cross the rail line.

 

In response to questions from Members of the Committee the following information was provided:-

 

·        The PROW team had viewed the submission and had not queried the numbers included, they did not have the resources to know usage of PROW across the County, and in their opinion it was sufficiently well used to be retained as a PROW and they would object to its closure.  Network Rail had assessed the existing crossing against the increased number of trains running on the rail line and after assessing options, including the use of gates, had proposed, as the safest option, that a bridge should be provided. Any antisocial behaviour was something that must be addressed by Community Policing.

·        The data that had been submitted in support of the application included a level crossing count of 89 which had been undertaken in June 2019 which was why the public speaker mentioned the figure of 89, the figure had not however been mentioned in the report.

·        There would be a significant intensification of use with the introduction of the passenger line, all 22 crossings had been surveyed and this was the only one which they had deemed to require a bridge.  It was recognised that the proposed bridge would not provide disabled access however the PROW team had stated that there was no evidence that there was a demand for disabled access at this particular crossing and therefore it was not deemed necessary in this instance.

·        The trees to be planted would be described in detail in the landscaping scheme to be submitted.  The bridge would be of a metal construction and it was expected that the surface would be of a non-slip variety which would also provide a cushion effect.  A slight amendment to the condition 3 to include details of “acoustically appropriate materials” could be included if Members were minded to approve the application.

·        The proposed height of the privacy screen was 1.8m to prevent people looking over and would be difficult to climb.  If there had been no other access to the rail track or if it was a high speed line then the provision of a covered bridge might have been considered in order to prevent anyone attempting to self-harm, but it was not considered necessary in this instance.

·        There were no proposals for the provision of CCTV or lighting and lighting in particular could be detrimental to the visual amenity. 

·        The PROW team had deemed the demand for the use of this particular PROW by wheelchair users or for pushchairs, given what was on the other side of the rail line, was not likely to be great.  There were proposals coming forward approximately 600m north of this application as part of the Bebside Station application for a footbridge to cross the A189 which would provide disabled access.  The PROW team, even after being advised of that proposed provision had still required the existing PROW to be retained and were happy with the stepped access for the bridge.

·        A Transport and Construction Method Statement was required to be provided and approved by the Local Planning Authority which would provide details of how loads would be transported to and gain access to the site, including access for the crane.

 

Councillor Flux proposed acceptance of the recommendation to approve the application in line with the report and with the amendment to Condition 3 as outlined above, which was seconded by Councillor Hutchinson.

 

During the debate Members highlighted that a number of PROW routes throughout the County were in very strange places and indeed led to nowhere or dead ends, however it was important that access to open space was retained and the proposed bridge was to ensure the public’s safety in using the route.  Councillor Reid advised that he could not vote in support of the application as he thought it was an expensive solution for a path which was not well used.  Councillor Flux in summing up stated that Network Rail would not look to provide the bridge if it was not required for safety reasons and he would be worried if the application was refused.  Concerns regarding antisocial behaviour needed to be addressed through different measures such as the Town Council, the County Council and the Police.

 

A vote was taken on the proposal to approve the application in line with the recommendation in the report and the amendment to Condition 3 to include “details of acoustically appropriate materials” as follows: FOR 12; AGAINST 2; ABSTENTIONS 0.

 

RESOLVED that the application be GRANTED for the reasons and with the Conditions as outlined in the report and amended as above.

 

Supporting documents: