The site was occupied by low key employment uses with access under a main railway line which also functioned as a public right of way which also provided access to a country park associated with a former colliery. The council, supported by some local residents, stated that the route was undesirable due to a lack of overlooking, a sense of intimidation during darkness and the secluded woodland beyond. They claimed that residents in the new housing development would not use the route for walking into the town and it would effectively prevent them from integrating with the local community.
While the site lay within the urban boundary, its integration with the settlement was still important, the inspector decided. The access road was poorly surfaced and dipped under the railway line. But the appellant proposed to alter the slope leading into and out of the bridge and provide a shared cycle and pedestrian route. Drainage would also be improved and there would be improved forward visibility, road markings and signage with a physical barrier restricting the height of vehicles which could pass. Overall, these improvements would enhance pedestrian connectivity and since the route under the bridge was relatively short, the inspector decided that potential users would not be deterred.
The council’s building control department, the Highway Authority, Network Rail and the Fire Service had all raised concerns about the use of a single access under the bridge. Emergency services accessing the site would be provided with an improved carriageway and two separate road safety audits confirms there were no significant issues in its operation. While Network Rail confirmed that a new bridge would ultimately be required within the next 50 years, most of the work could be undertaken off-site and the bridge lifted into position. This was not therefore a fundamental objection and the appeal was allowed.
Inspector: Mike Robins; Inquiry