Planners “short-sighted” over poultry plant plan

Date: Saturday 10th January 2004

LAKE District planners have been accused of being “short-sighted” over granting planning consent for a poultry plant to be built close to the track bed of the old Keswick to Penrith railway line at Troutbeck.

Now Cedric Martindale, a director of the company aiming to bring the railway line back into operation, fears it could send costs for reinstating the railway spiralling.

Plans, put forward by Mr. P. M. Smith, for a poultry processing plant on land at Cocklakes Hill, Troutbeck, were given the go-ahead at this week’s meeting of the Lake District National Park Authority development control committee after members heard that English Nature felt there would be no significant effect on a nearby Site of Special Scientific Interest, following a report by the national park’s ecologist.

Mr. Martindale had written to the planning authority voicing his concerns over the development. However, planners say there is doubt over whether the scheme will ever go ahead.

Mr. Martindale said the principle of a development in the area was not a problem, but some details would have consequences for the railway.

“The way the site is developing, not confined to just this application, means that there will be buildings on both sides of the trackbed, and an access road needed from the A66 across the line to reach part of the site. The latest plans also show drainage being routed under the trackbed,” he said.

Mr Martindale said crossing a railway with a road was a very expensive business with level crossings costing up to £500,000 and any realignment of the railway would affect hundreds of yards of route, probably requiring new construction rather than using trackbed which is already there, tripling or quadrupling the cost of the stretch affected.

“How certain the railway restoration is, is not a relevant factor. National Government planning guidance, Cumbria County Council’s local transport plan, the Cumbria and Lake District joint structure plan and Eden District Council’s policy all say that the trackbeds of closed railways should be protected from development so that they can be reopened.

Cumbria’s local transport plan refers specifically to the Keswick to Penrith railway in this context,” he added.

BURDENS

“Deciding to add burdens to the railway reinstatement because the planning authority is not sure if it will happen is short-sighted, precisely what the policies are meant to stop.

“Allowing damage now and wondering how to deal with it later is not planning. Who will pay the extra costs?” said Mr. Martindale.

Hundreds of supporters have invested nearly £300,000 in the design and planning of the reinstated railway and Mr. Martindale believes the project has the support of the railway industry nationally.

He added: “How much certainty do the planners want? When did the public voluntarily contribute funds to road schemes or other types of infrastructure development in the Lake District apart from footpath appeals?”

The railway company claims the scheme will contribute towards improved transport services across the north of England, while relieving the pressure of cars on Keswick and the Lake District.

“Only a little thought is needed now to ensure that all development, including the turkey processing plant, can co-exist and generate their respective benefits. Nobody needs to lose out, but failing to take care now will reduce the overall benefits later,” said Mr Martindale.