Industrial park promoted ahead
of “pie in the sky” rail scheme
PROPOSED access roads within the North Lakes Industrial Park, Flusco, which cross the line of the former Penrith to Keswick railway, will add millions to the cost of reinstating it, according to the company pioneering the scheme.
However, despite scores of objections, members of Eden Council’s planning applications committee on Thursday approved the roads scheme, which was submitted by Inglewood Properties.
Many councillors said they could not jeopardise the development of the industrial estate for the railway scheme, which was “pie in the sky” and “unlikely to happen”.
The agent for developer CKP Railways, David Clough, told councillors that about £150,000 had already been spent on design and assessment work for reinstating the railway and the industrial estate road would add “several million pounds” to the cost of implementing it. Mr. Clough explained that diverting the route of the railway around the industrial estate would mean large scale earthworks or deep excavations in limestone, which could also be scuppered by watercourses.
CKP managing director Cedric Martindale added in an open letter that the assumption that much of the trackbed had already been wiped out by the A66 was wrong.
He said: “It is true that the trackbed west of Keswick has been used for the construction of the A66, but that is not part of the project being developed by CKP Railways Plc.
“An early proposal for construction of the A66 included the section of the trackbed between Penruddock and Troutbeck, but the road was actually built on a different alignment which does not damage the trackbed.”
Mr. Martindale said the conflict with the industrial estate could be resolved by simply rerouting the industrial estate road instead.
NOT AN OPTION
However, Bruce Armstrong Payne, acting for the applicant, said that this was not an option, as it would simply create two separate industrial estates either side of the railway and leave plots which would be of poor shape and size and difficult to develop. He added that his client had already spent £750,000 on developing the industrial estate and the absence of additional access roads would result in a development which was no longer viable.
Mr. Armstrong Payne said: “Given the requirements of CKP we believe that the two uses can’t co-exist on the site. I can’t see that this railway scheme will ever be viable. Even if I’m wrong, an alternative route does exist just by passing this site.
“The scheme is already prohibitively expensive and in my view has no chance of proceeding.”
Planning officer Malcolm Johnson said that although planning policy existed to protect disused railways, there was no specific reference to the Keswick to Penrith line in infrastructure terms. He added that independent consultants employed by the council to assess the viability of the railway scheme had concluded that it was “unlikely to happen”, although he had no doubt of the benefits such a scheme could bring to the area.
However, Mr. Johnson added that there was “considerable opposition” to the industrial estate plans because of their impact on reinstatement the railway.
Brian Huddleston (Ind., Dacre), the local member for the area, said that although he would like to see the railway reinstated, he failed to see how it could be viable and therefore moved the recommendation to approve the new access roads.
This was seconded by Bryan Metz (Ind., Alston Moor), who said: “The industrial site has now been underway for some time. It sits very well within Eden with our industrial development. It will continue our economic development, which is the life blood of this community.”
Mike Davidson (Ind., Penrith) said: “The independent consultant’s report has said that this railway is very unlikely to be viable. This industrial estate will provide jobs and work for this economy for the present and is not some pie in the sky railway scheme which isn’t going to be viable at all.”
Gordon Nicolson (Con., Penrith) added that the industrial estate complied with the council’s aims of attracting more highly paid jobs to the district and the location was well away from residential areas whereas the railway scheme had no timescale, no confirmation of funding and costs estimated at up to £60 million.
He said: “While I would very much like to see the railway coming to fruition we have to be realistic. We do have to regard that as a very long term vision and the line of the railway has already been breached at a number of places.”
However, Henry Sawrey-Cookson (Ind., Kirkby Thore) said that in times of an oil crisis and the “curse of the car”, the railway was a good scheme, while another industrial estate simply added to the number of businesses searching for staff in an area of low unemployment.
He said: “Big employers are having to get people from overseas. They then put them in houses in Penrith, forcing up the cost of housing and denying housing for local people.”
An alternative entrance to the industrial estate could be installed from the Greystoke Gill road, while the railway would alleviate some of the freight traffic congestion along the A66.
He added: “80 per cent. of the railway line is still intact and there is no requirement for extra employment in Eden. It’s the very reverse.”
Henry Cook (Lib. Dem., Penrith) added: “It seems to me common sense not to allow one company with a proposed development to prejudice substantially and do immense harm to the proposed development of another firm.”
Marjorie Cook (Lib. Dem., Penrith) also supported the railway scheme.
“We all know the railway line is there and it can be traced. We are told that it is feasible and reinstatement can be made. This application got 170 replies, the majority being against the proposal. We are urged to take cars off the road by the Government and the railway would reduce congestion on the A66 and in Keswick,” she said.
In a recorded vote, eight councillors voted to approve the access roads and four members voted against.