Plans for a pedestrian footbridge spanning the town’s railway near Southgate level crossing have been given the go ahead by the planning authority.
The revised design for the bridge linking Grantham Road and Station Road has been put forward to allow pedestrian access once the planned link road between Mareham Lane and Boston Road goes ahead and Southgate level crossing is closed in line with Network Rail safety requirements.
The latest bridge design has been conceived by funding partners North Kesteven District Council, Lincolnshire County Council and Network Rail.
Although official applicants Network Rail are legally entitled to develop their operational land and assets without planning permission – a process called prior approval - because of the closeness of the proposed bridge to the older railway station, it required Listed Buildings Consent.
Members of NKDC’s Eastgate Planning Sub Committee met last night (Tuesday) to consider the proposals and voted in favour of it by a clear majority.
According to NKDC’s own Twitter feed of the proceedings, Network Rail’s Steven Hind presented the case to close the level crossing and build a bridge, but Sleaford Town Council had objected to the principle of closing the level crossing having not seen a convincing case for its closure and therefore objected to the footbridge and its design.
Coun Ken Fernandez speaking for Sleaford Town Council addressed the meeting saying the bridge is “wholly inappropriate” in this conservation area.
Town and district councillor David Suiter also expressed concern for people with heart problems or the deaf who he said may struggle to walk over the proposed footbridge but Network Rail reassured Counr Suiter the proposed footbridge design is fully compliant with the Equalities Act.
Town and district councillor Keith Dolby described the bridge as “a carbuncle” and urged it should be refused by NKDC but Coun Geoff Hazelwood counmtered that the bridge should go ahead so that Sleaford can grow for the sake of future generations.
Coun Rob Kendrick referred to other modern station building works such as Kings Cross and Nottingham, saying: “I see no problem, this is a solution to a problem.”
After more concerns about the elderly and mothers with pushchairs struggling the committee’s Deputy Chairman Coun John Money pointed out the incline of the bridge would be far less than other slopes such as Galley Hill bridge in the town.
A total of 16 councillors voted in favour of the proposal, four against and two abstentions.
The bridge design has a 1:24 slope gradient with rest platforms, broad steps, integral lighting and open visibility for better personal safety and, being within the station’s footprint, it is described by Network Rail as allowing better access for station users and more people from the London Road and Grantham Road as it will link up to new car parking planned south of the tracks.
NKDC’s economic development manager Alan Gray had told the Standard prior to the decision: “It is important for the wider, long-term development of Sleaford that we achieve improved, easy and safe access for people to get across the rail tracks at all times – rather than be hindered by closures every time trains pass through. There is a common aim that the footbridge unites the two sides of Sleaford currently split by the tracks and closed barriers; allowing for free movement at all times; removing the risk of people jumping on to the rails and introducing a striking feature to the streetscene.”