'This bridge is listed for a reason. It is part of St Austell’s heritage and its loss would see another part of town’s history gone'

Steve Double, Member of Parliament for St Austell and Newquay has joined with local councillors and residents to express concerns over the future of the Grade II Cast Iron footbridge at St Austell Railway Station after it has been revealed that Network Rail have applied to de-list it.

“This bridge is listed for a reason. It is part of St Austell’s heritage and its loss would see another part of our town’s history gone” the MP said today.

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At present the bridge and station is a Grade II listed structure and a designated heritage asset for St Austell.

Network Rail have applied for demolition of the bridge in the past, only to be turned down by planners at Cornwall Council. They also lost the subsequent appeal.

But they seem determined to rid themselves of the old bridge and it’s associated costs. NR submitted an application to de-list the bridge to Historic England on June 29th that officials are now investigating.

Cornwall Council (Heritage Kernow) have been consulted by Historic England but have yet to send their response.

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Under Historic England’s guidance to delist there is a “need for clear and convincing justification for harm or loss – substantial harm through physical impact – Less than substantial harm through development affecting the setting – substantial public benefits that outweigh substantial harm”

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Although they haven’t responded officially to the consultation, Heritage Kernow officials told Cornish Stuff this afternoon that “We see no reason to change the status of the building. It is the same building as when it was originally listed”

Passengers currently use the new ‘plastic bridge’ to cross the tracks which takes you out of the station and back in, and has no roof on it.

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Lately, Network Rail have refurbished the old waiting rooms at the station but say there’s no money for the bridge – and anyway they want to move it, not demolish it

Network Rail told us in a statement today: “In 2014 we invested £500,000 with Cornwall Council to replace the existing footbridge with a new fully accessible bridge for all passengers to have access to both platforms. It was always our intention to carefully remove the existing bridge and find a long term home for it where it can properly be maintained in a suitable setting.  We are currently working on this whilst making sure it is remains structurally safe.”

In the past NR have said they needed to demolish the bridge to allow for the new generation of trains on the Paddington line next year. ‘All aboard!’ New 10 carriage Intercity Express Train visits Cornwall for the first time

However the recent ‘test run’ proved the new trains could pass safely under the old bridge and therefore demolition is unnecessary. NR have also used the pre text of potential electrification of the line as a reason for demolition. But there are no plans for electrification at present.

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The government is ultimately the owner of the site but Network Rail manage and operate it, so therefore the bill to renovate the bridge and the budget to maintain it would fall at NR’s door.  There is no statutory duty for owners to maintain listed buildings, however health and safety officers could insist on maintenance if the building poses a public hazard.

(Photos David Lovell)

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The railway station and footbridge was first listed in 1996.

The HE listing itself states “GWR took over this section of the Cornwall Railways in 1877. Cast-iron, wrought-iron, timber frame and weatherboarded construction with corrugated-iron and felted roofs with shaped and pierced boarded valances; dry slate roof to probable station master’s office. An overall Z-shaped plan with 2 long rectangular waiting-room and office buildings linked by a roofed bridge. Single-storey buildings; each building of 6 bays and with the station front roofs cantilevered out as open shelters, the ends of each roof projecting at the ends and linked to the roof of the footbridge. Transomed windows, ledged or panelled doors. The footbridge, wrought in typical GWR style and with 1882 date and logo to spandrel plates, has iron columns with carved acanthus to capitals and the main span is lattice braced. INTERIOR where inspected is simple but relatively unaltered. Some identical detail to the listed station at Redruth, and a good example of a complete station in a distinctive company style”

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An online petition has been set up by Nicholas Storey HERE that calls for action to  be taken:
“After years of neglect, by Network Rail, of the Grade II listed 1882 railway footbridge, and the signal box, at St Austell Railway Station, (we call on) Cornwall Council to execute its statutory duty to enforce preservation”

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Cllr Sandra Heyward

Cllr Sandra Heyward, St Austell councillor for the Gover ward in which the station is located spoke to Cornish Stuff today and told us that she had persuaded Cornwall Council to keep open a planning enforcement case against Network Rail that was going nowhere. A report on the state of the bridge was commissioned back in March but is yet to be published. The application to de-list the bridge is seen as a direct response from Network Rail to this action by the council.

Planning officers can only recommend action but have no real powers of enforcement.

“My next plan of action is to speak to senior planning officers and to Heritage Kernow” Sandra Heyward told us

“I’m calling a big public meeting for the middle of August (date/venue TBC) so we can build some public pressure to get something done”

Steve Double, who will be attending the public meeting added:

“Having lived in St Austell all of my life this bridge is to me an iconic part of St Austell. It is the first thing travellers by rail see when they come to our town and it is such a shame that Network Rail have let it deteriorate to its current state.”

“This bridge is listed for a reason. It is part of St Austell’s heritage and its loss would see another part of our town’s history gone.”

“I call upon NetworkRail to do the right thing and restore the bridge for passengers to use instead of letting it rot away.”

“If Network Rail will not change their mind, then I will happily work with local residents and councillors to find a way of come to a solution where the bridge will be saved and restored for future generations.”

 

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