A COMMUNITY eco-park and allotments should be provided with ramps as part of Network Rail’s plans to replace footbridges in Oxford.

The company is planning to replace the bridge off Whitehouse Road to allow its electrification of the railway line to take place.

But people involved in the community groups that run the green space across the  track are unhappy with the scheme.

Madeleine Ellis-Petersen, secretary of OxGrow, said: “At the moment it is just a lot of steps and it would be much better for everyone if it could be a ramp so people can bring their bikes and people who are disabled will be able to come to OxGrow.

“We would like as many people as possible to be involved and older members of the community struggle to come across the bridge. It is very difficult for people with buggies, as well as those who are disabled.”

Similar concerns have been raised about plans to replace the footbridge linking South Oxford and South Hinksey. Residents launched a petition urging Network Rail to put in ramps when it replaces the bridge crossing the railway line by Hinksey Lake.

Under the Oxford and Rugby Railways Act 1845, Network Rail does not have to seek planning permission from Oxford City Council to replace the bridge, but merely needs “prior approval”.

Prior approval is decided on narrower grounds than a normal planning application.

These grounds are that the development ought to be and could be reasonably carried out elsewhere and that the design of the bridge would “injure the amenity of the neighbourhood” and could be modified to avoid such injury.

Network Rail’s application for Hinksey bridge was turned down by the city council last year on the grounds that it also lacked ramps, making the new, higher, bridge difficult for parents with children in buggies, cyclists and disabled people to negotiate.

But this week, planning inspector Doug Cramond had overturned the council’s decision.

He ruled the proposal would not result in injury to the amenity of the neighbourhood.

A decision on the Whitehouse Road bridge will be made by the west area planning committee on Tuesday.

Council officer Lisa Green said in a report: “Notwithstanding committee’s determination of the Hinksey case, legal advice remains to exercise caution in considering whether to withhold prior approval for the same or similar reasons as at Hinksey, as in terms of its design and appearance the new bridge could not itself be said to be injurious to the amenity of the neighbourhood.”

The bridge leads to Hogacre Common Eco-park and the OxGrow community garden.

Hogacre Common was opened in 2011 on a former sports ground and is rented by Low Carbon West Oxford from Corpus Christi College for a jar of honey a year.

In a statement to the city council Network Rail said: “This scheme is of national significance and will benefit the local area with improved rail services and reduced journey times.”