South Tyneside Council have recently provided information on their plans to replace Tilesheds and Benton Lane level crossings with a bypass and bridge.
There has been much discussion about the proposed plan on various social media sites but the Forum’s response has been collated from the views of members which were sought by email.
Although the development is outside of the Forum area it is important to note that the Council’s “Transforming Cities Fund” Bid document submitted in December 2019, states:
“the Boldon/Tileshed level crossing closure scheme with the provision of a new road bridge and highway links, will unlock development sites with potential for over 1000 housing units”.
This seems at best disingenuous and is information that the community needs in order fully evaluate the scheme in the round. Many of the potential housing units would be within the Forum area.
The Forum’s response has been put together following email consultation with members.
The Forum concludes that the project proposal greatly lacks the necessary detail and supporting evidence to allow adequate scrutiny and understanding. As a consequence many people in the local community remain unconvinced that it is necessary or good use of public money. The negatives seem to significantly outweigh the positives and therefore the project, as it stands, cannot be supported by East Boldon Neighbourhood Forum. EBF is committed to work with the Council in a positive way and look forward to being involved with developments in relation to this project.
The below points are taken from the Forum’s response and references are to the full document.
KEY QUESTIONS AND ISSUES (requiring immediate action)
Due to the groundswell of local opposition against this proposal, EBF believe it is essential to allow the community sufficient insight so that they can provide informed feedback and feel confident that they are being honestly and openly consulted. Whilst all the issues and questions require a reply, the Forum requests that the following actions are prioritised and a response is provided as a matter of urgency, BEFORE the end of the consultation period and prior to the scheme being progressed.
- The Council need to publicly acknowledge and document the link to future housing plans, and fully explain this crucial matter. (Ref. 3.1.2)Network Rail must be asked to provide: a detailed explanation (in lay terms) to support and explain why double barriers will increase down-time; an evaluation of how new technology can mitigate closure times; historic data for level crossing accidents; further evidence to justify safety arguments against retaining the level crossings. (Ref. 3.1.3)
- Natural England’s comments should be publicly available. (Ref. 3.1.4)
- The consultant working for the Council should be required to provide better information to indicate the proposal including:
Indicative drawings of each elevation,
Indicative sectional elevations through the bridge structure and southern embankment, including approximate dimensioned heights,
Appropriate, longer range CGI views of the bridge & embankments from relevant positions, i.e. new Boker Lane roundabout, Tileshed Lane, Heaton Gardens, Newton Garth Farm. (Ref. 3.1.5)
An aerial photograph of the site with the proposal superimposed.
- Further assessments of air quality and pollution issues and traffic flow data to cover all scenarios are required. (Ref 3.1.6)
- For comparison purposes and to put the cost of the bridge option into perspective, the estimated cost of the double barrier option should be provided and the Council’s level of financial contribution for the bridge & bypasses (how this will be funded), should be made clear. (Ref. 3.1.7)
- Council to publish Aecom’s Feasibility Study, in its entirety. (Ref. 3.1.7)
- Council to disclose the source of funding for the current investigative work near the bridge site to be carried out. (Ref. 3.1.8)
- An Environmental Impact Assessment should be provided to assess damage to the adjacent wildlife sites. (Ref. 3.2.2)
- The Council’s mitigation proposals to compensate for the loss of areas of environmental assets and green belt should be made available. (Ref. 3.3.4)