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Controversial railway footbridge near Craven Arms given the green light

Plans for a controversial 7.5 metre high footbridge over the railway line to the north of Craven Arms have been given the green light.

An artist's impression of the footbridge. Photo: Network Rail
An artist's impression of the footbridge. Photo: Network Rail

Councillors were told that the council can only stop Network Rail from going ahead for two very specific reasons - including on design and location.

Shropshire Council's southern planning committee heard on Tuesday that a level crossing over the three tracks of the transport route had been closed five ago. This is Network Rail's plan to replace the pedestrian access for a circular footpath route.

The meeting heard that Network Rail considers the closed level crossing the "most dangerous on the Wales and Borders route".

Councillors were told by a Network Rail representative that there are "unique health and safety risks" at the level crossing on the 90mph line, which is used by 113 trains every day.

"It has the highest level of risk on our Wales and Borders area," the spokesman said.

An artist's impression of the footbridge. Photo: Network Rail

He added that they "totally acknowledge concerns" and could make the footbridge temporary.

Council officers had recommended approval to the plan for the location on the Shrewsbury-Hereford line.

But objectors told councillors that the level crossing had been closed for five years since 2017, and diverted to another level crossing nearby. Wistanstow Parish Council has not received calls to reopen the route.

The bridge would be fabricated from composite materials. The supports would include piers constructed of glass fibre-reinforced polymer. Network Rail has told the council that this type of design requires minimal maintenance.

The bridge would measure approximately 27 metres from west to east, with a height of approximately 6.2 metres to the base of the soffitt and 7.5 metres to the top of the parapet.

Wistanstow Parish Council and Craven Arms Town Council had said the proposed bridge is not acceptable for this location. They said the development would be a conspicuous feature in this countryside location in the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It it also in an area of important Roman archaeology, a prehistoric bowl barrow and another possible Bronze Age ring ditch, and a possible Neolithic mortuary enclosure.

Church Stretton and Craven Arms councillor David Evans said it would be intrusive on the landscape.

Council officers said they do not consider that the footbridge ought to be located elsewhere to perform its stated purpose, or that it could reasonably meet its purpose by being located elsewhere.

They also said in their opinion even though it would be visible from parts of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) they considered that the design is "modern and aesthetically pleasing".

"Given its design, appearance, siting and nature, it is not considered that this would injure the amenity of the neighbourhood," they said.

Network Rail told the council that a community drop-in event was held at Wistanstow Parish Hall on June 22, attended by over 30 individuals who raised a range of views on the proposals. There had been positive and concerned views.

Local ramblers had no objection but were concerned with the "inordinate amount of time" it had taken Network Rail to come up with a solution.

Councillor Tony Parsons said: "I don't see anything wrong with the design of this bridge. I think this will improve safety and these footpaths should be joined."

Councillor Robert Tindall agreed. He said: "If the need for this bridge is proven, which it is, we cannot object on the design. I think it is a very elegant modern design."

Footpath walker Councillor Andy Boddington said the footpath was part of a circuit.

He said the Long Lane diversion on a busy road was "absolute hell, you just chew on the fumes".

"This can remain an important route, coming out of the Discovery Centre," he added.

Councillor Boddington proposed approving the application, which was seconded by Councillor Tindall.

Councillors voted by six to one to approve the plan.

Councillor Christian Lea told his colleagues that he could not agree that the design was acceptable.

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