Hard on the heels of the cement works, the link road and the zoning of part of the beach between Newhaven and Tide Mills comes yet another attack.

This time Network rail wants to stop up the track to Tidemills from the main road and make people divert round a large and unsightly bridge.

Here is a picture of the proposal.  You can see that the bridge will dwarf the various bits of industrial heritage.

Here is a map of the site

The bridge will be topped by huge black bits of wood, about 8 feet high, which will be visible from a long way. See below

The full application is here. It is numbered  SDNP/19/00921/FUL

The decision will be made by the South Downs National Park and not Lewes Council The Park is more likely to consider the overall picture than Lewes Council.

PLEASE OBJECT!

You can object by

  • Emailing the National Park at planning@southdowns.gov.uk.
  • Writing to them at SDNPA, South Downs Centre, North Street, Midhurst, West Sussex, GU29 9DH
  • Going to the Park web site here and logging in. You can then make your comments on line.

It is up to you what you say, but, if you agree, you might want to say:

  • In a unique flat and remote landscape, a building of this height will be unacceptably obtrusive
  • The atmosphere of the area will be destroyed and the building remains overshadowed
  • The black edifices on top of the bridge will be an eyesore against the sky.
  • The flora and fauna of the area will be affected (if you have evidence that this is the case- don’t say this unless you have evidence)
  • The remains of the old railway station will be desecrated by the building of a bridge right over the top.
  • People should not be stopped from using the historic road.
  • There has been no significant increase in the speed or number of trains in nearly one hundred years and, although all crossings carry risk, the risk is no more than that on other parts of the railway system, or when people are crossing busy roads, like the A259.
  • The plans will not stop vandalism or people climbing over the locked gates on the road to get to the line.
  • The proposed route is longer and involves an ascent.  This is difficult for people with disabilities

Below you will find quite a long appendix which fleshes out the arguments.  Please do not quote it word for word, but use your own words.

PLEASE INCLUDE THE REFERERENCE NUMBER IN YOUR EMAIL OR LETTER SDNP/19/00921/FUL

THE CLOSING DATE FOR COMMENTS IS FRIDAY 12TH APRIL.

Please tell anyone else who might be interested.

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APPENDIX

This is the objection that the Open Spaces Society will be making.  You do not read all of it, but you might want to read sections to find out more or to support your arguments.

OPEN SPACES SOCIETY OBJECTION TO SDNP/19/00921/FUL

I am the local correspondent for the Open Spaces Society.  The society opposes this application for the following reasons:

A unique site

The coastal strip between the river Adur and the east of Seaford has very little land which is not within the immediate vicinity of housing or industry.  This section of coast is the last remaining undeveloped strip.  It is being reduced by agreed proposals to build a Newhaven Port Access road and by a proposal to zone part of it for industrial development.  So it is very important to protect what remains.

The application quotes the inspector who decided that  part of it should be included in the National Park as follows:

“this area forms part of the lower Ouse Valley and is an integral part of the wider downland landscape. Amongst other things the land in dispute includes a stretch of undeveloped coastline and , uniquely within the PSDNP, a shingle beach that gives the area a high degree of tranquillity and openness. Views out to sea, inland and along the coast are spectacular.

The description is a good one, but it misses out important points.  Firstly, the area is an important resource for the surrounding settlements of Newhaven, Bishopstone and Seaford.  Secondly, in contrast with the rolling downs in the background, it is flat.  This means that it has a special character which is in contrast with much of the rest of the National Park in East Sussex.  Even though it is near settlements and crossed by a railway and bordered by a major road, the area has a sense of wildness, remoteness and tranquillity characteristic of many more isolated flatlands. Even though the hill settlement of Bishopstone can be seen from the site it appears distant and does not intrude as much as might be expected.

So this is no place to build an structure that will be visible for a very great distance because of its elevation, topped off with a black edifice perhaps 8ft above the bridge which will stand out against all but the very darkest skies.

Important industrial heritage

Others will wish to comment on the impact on flora and fauna, but perhaps the most important feature of the Tide Mills site is its industrial heritage.

The illustrations in the application documents show how the proposed bridge will overshadow the remains of the site and transform its nature. The bridge dwarfs everything else. 

But the worst aspect of the proposal is what it does to two of the most important pieces of industrial heritage, the road and the railway station.  These were vital to Tide Mills. For the whole of the working life of the site almost everything and everybody came and went via one of these two.  They are integral to an understanding of the site.  The road can be dated back to maps of the 18th century.

But it is proposed that visitors will no longer be able to enter via the road which was the entrance to Tide Mills and the large bridge, which will cut through the station site and overlook it, will completely change the nature of the old station site.  It is not too much to say that this is a desecration of the site.

A branch line railway

The application documents make Network Rail’s standard case that the railway is speeding up and that level crossings need abolishing.  Comparisons with High Speed Rail 1 are made.  This argument is not relevant here.

This is a branch line with stations every mile or so.  It was opened in 1864 and the track was doubled around 1900.  It was later singled through the application site in 1975, so pedestrians now only have to cross one track instead of two in earlier times, leading to a lower risk.

There has been no significant increase in the speed of the trains for nearly one hundred years and there is not likely to be any further increase

At various times publishers have reproduced older timetables and published them.  Two covering this line are:

  • Bradshaw’s July 1922 Railway Guide, published by David and Charles prior to the introduction of ISBN numbers.
  • Southern Railway Passenger Services October 6th 1947 until further notice.

In order to make comparisons it is necessary to compare times between Newhaven Harbour and Seaford, because Bishopstone  Station  moved from the application site to its current position in the late 1930s. 

The 1922 timetable extract shows a service of slightly less than half hourly, with trains taking 6 or 7minutes from Seaford to Newhaven Harbour

A more detailed examination reveals that there were also trains that did not stop at Bishopstone that did the journey in 5 minutes.

This was a service operated by the steam engines of the period.

The electrification of the line in the 1930s no doubt resulted in a speeding up of trains, as it did on the rest of the system.  But the next available timetable is that of the Southern Railway for 1947.  The railways were still recovering from the war, which had resulted in damage and no maintenance.

The 1947 timetable reveals a reduction in services. Trains sometimes run on a hourly frequency and the time taken between Seaford and Newhaven Harbour is 7 or 8 minutes. (However the occasional fast train does it in 4 minutes.)

It is almost certain that frequency and speed increased in following years.

An examination of the National Rail Enquiries web site will reveal that services are normally half hourly and that trains take 6 minutes to run from Newhaven Harbour to Seaford and 7 minutes to run from Seaford to Newhaven Harbour.

It is clear that services have not increased in speed or regularity to any significant degree over the last 97 years.

The frequency of passenger trains may have increased a little over the period but, whilst there was once substantial goods traffic, this ceased some years ago.

Nor is there any likelihood that they will increase in the near future.  Unless the service frequency were to be increased to 3 an hour (which is not envisaged and would pose logistical difficulties), a speeding up of the service would only result in the train waiting in nearby Seaford terminus for a longer time.  

Level Crossings, Incidents and Accidents.

Crossings

There are a number of other unsupervised level crossings on this line which do not have automatic gates:

  • Perhaps the most problematic is that at Southease station.  Half of the trains run through this station non-stop.  It carries a large number of walkers, cyclists and equestrians walking the South Downs Way.   The increasing popularity of this route means that the numbers are likely to increase and may already be above those quoted for the application crossing. Walkers and cyclists doing shorter routes from the Youth Hostel also  use the crossing. Uniquely, it must cater for horses, who can become entirely uncontrollable when confronted with moving trains. Personal observation suggests that a significant number of railway passengers prefer to use the level crossing rather than the bridge.
  • There is a footpath crossing at Stock Cottages
  • There is a claimed footpath (not yet on the map, but for which an application has been made) which crosses the railway south of Tarring Neville
  • The popular riverside path crosses the railway on the level at South Heighton.

So far as we are aware there are no plans to change any of these crossings.

Accidents

The National rail web site will show that trains currently take 3 minutes to travel from Newhaven Harbour to the current Bishopstone Station and 4 minutes to make the return journey.  Measured on an ordnance survey map the distance between these stations is 1.42 miles.  The three minute journey represents an average speed of 28 mph. The four minute journey represents an average speed of 21 mph.  Obviously speeds will be higher on the part of the route between stations, but this is still well below the speeds on the nearby A259. An officer report to East Sussex Council  dated 13 April 2016, on the subject of proposals to traffic calm and limit speeds on the section of the road immediately to the east of Mill Drove (the road across the railway at the application site) reported AVERAGE speeds of 46-49 mph.  Officers said that the road was normally free flowing.

Pedestrians wanting to access Tide Mills who are coming from Denton, Bishopstone or the eastbound coastliner bus stop must cross this road in the face of traffic coming both ways.  They are in a similar, but perhaps more difficult position to those trying to cross the railway at Tide Mills

At the time of the report there had been one fatal, four serious injury and nine slight crashes in the last three years but the council considered that it was only necessary to reduce the speed limit to 50mph.

The network rail report here mentions on fatality and some near misses.

Any fatality is to be deplored, but we note that the circumstances of the fatality are not described.

We also note that there is no external collaboration of the alleged near misses.

The author of this report has read the main newspaper covering the area( The Sussex Express) for over 20 years and cannot recall an accident previous to the one mentioned.  A search of the East Sussex Local Archive catalogue does not reveal any serious incidents at the crossing over the previous century.

There may have been some, but we are not convinced that the risk is any higher than it is for a passenger on many other parts of the rail system, or a pedestrian trying to cross a road.

We note that the crossing would, up to the abandonment of Tide Mills at the start of the war, have seen considerable traffic in the form of wagons, lorries and similar.  There was obviously enough passenger traffic to justify a station at Tide Mills but the railway companies did not consider it necessary (so far as we are aware) to build a footbridge, instead allowing passengers to cross the tracks.

Incidents, vandalism and stupidity.

We notice that a significant number of incidents recorded come into these categories.  The crossing must still be available for private vehicles.  It will be locked, but unless some huge ugly barrier is erected, which would be wholly inappropriate for the site people will climb over it or break it.  The Authority will know that when there is a short cut to a loop path, people will try to use it.  Stupid people will try to access the railway in a way that is more dangerous than the current arrangements.

Nor do we consider that there will be a significant impact on vandalism, with the possible exception that it would now be easier to climb up the ramps to hurl objects over the barriers and down on to passing trains.

Bicycles Wheelchairs and disabled users.

The application states that the current arrangements are hostile to cyclists and wheelchair users. 

There are no facilities for cyclists to the south of the railway.  All the routes are footpaths on which it is illegal to ride. There is an alternative cycleway to the north-west which most cyclists will use.  Promoting access to Tide Mills by cycle without further facilities simply sets up conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists.  Although it is stated that cyclists will be asked to walk their bicycles on the bridge this is unenforceable and is unlikely to happen.  It is clear that the issue of who has access to Tide Mills has not been thought out.

It would be very easy to introduce wheelchair friendly gates at the level crossing.  An adapted single gate would work.  If further security, for example for stock, is required then the sorts of gates used on the Salterns Way in Chichester could be adopted.  A series of designs are shown here  It is a mistake to think of people with disabilities as simply those in wheelchairs.  There is a very large group of people who find climbing even gentle inclines difficult (people with breathing problems to name but one group).  Currently the complex of paths in this area, which extends from Newhaven to Seaford, is one of the largest group of level access routes in the east of the National Park.  We suggest that the designer of this bridge be compelled to push themselves up a similar incline in a wheelchair.

You can see recommended standards here.  You will note that a maximum incline of 1 in 20 is recommended with a minimum width of 1.8 metres.  We assume that the design incorporates these standards (although we have not been able to find them in the docuements, but they are intended for situations where there is already a slope.  Level access and a greater width, as provided on the existing route would always be preferred.

We would like to draw your attention to the diagram below, presented with the application documents.  It illustrates a number of the problems with the site. 

Firstly it illustrates the way that the proposed structure would drawf the artifacts on site.

Secondly it shows that the designers are ignoring the artifacts at the old station, which are omitted.

Thirdly it shows that the vehicle gate will still remain.

Fourthly and most importantly, it illustrates one of the typical rest points which will be incorporated into the structure.  Modern path thinking, quite correctly, incorporates rest points into the design of paths.  However, here we have an example of following the manual rather than looking at the problem.  Rest points recognise that a wide variety of people will need to rest on a walk.  They will need to rest more if the walk is longer and contains unnecessary gradients. These are introduced by this proposal.

Right  of way diversion

To be implemented, this scheme would require a rights of way diversion order.  We are not aware of any application for this being made.  In the view of the Open Spaces Society no planning permission should be considered until the question of a diversion order was resolved.

The society would oppose such an order on the grounds that the route is longer than the existing route and has obstacles for people with disabilities and is therefore less convenient for the public.  We expect that other outdoor organisations would wish to object.

Status of the route

The society participates in the Sussex Don’t Lose Your Way group, a group of people making applications to add lost rights of way to the map.  We have already made 50 applications to add rights of way to the definitive map.  There are something like 100 further routes identified as requiring further research.  The footpath across the crossing is one of them.  We consider that it is wrongly classified and that it is likely that it is historically a  public road.

We have a lot of routes to research and have not so far completed our researches on this route.  But preliminary work  has involved examining a large number of historic maps and other documents.  The map is clearly identified as a road. We are currently researching who had what rights over this road, so are not yet in a position to make an application, but we are moving forward.

If the application were successful, the portion of the footpath from the car park going south across the level crossing and to the village of Tide Mills would be classed as a restricted byway.  This would mean that the route would need to be suitable for carriages hauled by horses.  Any diversion of footpath rights made prior to the amendment of status would not affect higher rights.