FUEL DEPOT APPROVAL BLOW TO RAIL LINE REOPENING PLANS

Date: Saturday 19th August 2006

HOPES of reopening the Penrith to Keswick railway line were dealt a blow on Thursday when planning permission was granted for a fuel depot on land over which the track would run.

The development was approved by members of Eden Council’s planning applications committee despite 125 letters of objection being received.

The application was made by Brogen Fuels for plot 8a on the North Lakes Industrial Park at Flusco, near Penrith. The site will now be developed into a fuel distribution depot with a tank farm, office building, bothy, oil store and six parking places, all situated on the eastern and northern boundaries of the plot.

The objections were raised by enthusiasts who are working to reopen the railway line, which runs across the site. They said the development would cause the loss of or damage to the trackbed and hinder reopening of the line. The development would damage the scheme’s viability as rerouting the line would be too costly.

The Northwest Regional Development Agency also had concerns. A report from planning officers said: “The agency has expressed an interest in reopening the Penrith Keswick railway and is undertaking a review to test the viability of the business case. It is understood that this work will be completed by November of this year.

“The agency states that the potential loss of part of the route is of concern to it and its position of support ‘in principle’ for the reopening of the line.”

However, the agency conceded that the commercial viability of reinstating the line remained in question.

EXPERT ADVICE

Eden’s planning officers said concerns regarding the reinstatement had been addressed by the council. When considering a previous application with the same implications, the council took expert advice from transport consultants on the feasibility of the line reopening.

“The evidence concluded that there was considerable doubt about the likelihood of the line reopening or being financially viable. However, if, at a later date, circumstances changed then there was also potential for the route to be diverted.

“This rationale still applies and it is considered that the objections and comments received remain insufficient to justify the refusal of this present application,” said the officers.

John Thompson (Con., Penrith) and Bryan Metz (Ind., Alston) both spoke in support of the fuel depot, as did Mike Davidson (Ind., Penrith), who said: “We have gone over this ground before every time development comes on to Flusco. We as a council are committed to Flusco and should be supporting businesses there.”

TWO DAYS’ NOTICE

The wife of a man behind the railway reinstatement plans, Margaret Martindale, has asked for objectors to the development for their help after she claims they received only two days’ prior notification that the depot application would be considered on Thursday.

Mrs. Martindale has asked any objectors who knew of the meeting to contact her. She wants to know how they received notification by e-mail or post; when they received notification by e-mail or post and time and date; who the notification was from the name of the person and job title; and if they consider the amount of time of notification adequate.

She can be contacted at cedric martindale.f9.co.uk.