When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Rail firm may appeal over footbridge block
NETWORK Rail is considering an appeal after councillors rejected plans for a replacement footbridge needed to make way for electrification of Oxford’s railways.
Oxford City Council’s west area planning committee rejected the design of a new bridge linking South Hinksey to the city, as it could not be used by people with bikes, baby buggies and the disabled.
Residents want Network Rail to include ramps on the new bridge, but the firm said this would be too expensive.
At a meeting on Wednesday night the committee was asked to give “prior approval” consent.
But Network Rail can demolish the bridge, which also crosses Hinksey Lake, without council permission and is under no obligation to replace it. It needs to install a new bridge as the current one is too low for the overhead cables needed to supply electricity to trains.
Network Rail spokesman Sam Kelly said: “We are considering all options and will look to work with the council to reach a solution.
“Electrification is going ahead and for safety and operational reasons we will need the extra height to accommodate the overhead line equipment at Hinksey.”
Planning officers had urged the committee to approve the plan, saying it could not force Network Rail to put in ramps. They highlighted a similar case in Lincolnshire where councillors refused an application, only to see it overturned on appeal.
Unlike a planning application, prior approval decisions are made on narrower criteria, including whether it would “injure the amenity of the neighbourhood”. The committee gave this reason for refusing consent.
Councillor John Tanner said: “It seems to me we have very little power but I would like us to use what powers we have.” He added: “What we want is a bridge for the modern age, which will allow disabled people and people with pushchairs to use it.”
Network Rail has said it does not have the money to install ramps, which would cost £750,000.
Gill Garratt, from Newton Road, South Oxford, told the committee: “The existing bridge is not fit for purpose and in this day and age to replace it with a bridge which is even worse is simply outrageous.”
Campaigner Peter Rawcliffe, of Barley Cott Lane, said he was delighted by the committee’s decision. He added: “The authorities should put their money where their mouth is and supply ramps on a bridge that is going to be there for many generations.”