Is design for new Biggleswade bridleway bridge to replace 'dangerous' level crossing too big?

There has been a mixed reaction to the design for the new bridge to replace the 'notorious' Lindsells Level Crossing

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 3:56 pm
Updated Thursday, 27th May 2021, 3:59 pm

Biggleswade councillors have reacted to the design of the new bridleway bridge which is intended to replace the Lindsells Level Crossing - "one of the UK's most dangerous".

On May 14, it was announced that Network Rail had submitted a planning application for the bridge design, which appears to have seen a mixed reaction from the public.

With comments on social media describing the new proposal as everything from "a monstrosity" to "necessary to make it [the crossing] safer", the Chronicle spoke to local councillors to gauge their views on the design.

What the bridge could look like

Deputy Mayor Cllr Grant Fage, of Biggleswade Town Council, said: "No doubt, there's a lot of public interest in this, because quite rightly, people care about the public right of way.

"The Lindsells Level Crossing is one of the most dangerous in the country, which is why Network Rail is so keen to close it.

"The bridge is quite tall, but I am confident that we can get sympathetic landscaping, for example, trees and nice footpaths.

"In principle, we are happy to change the right of way in order to facilitate the bridge."

Cllr Fage told the Chronicle that the proposal is due to be considered by Biggleswade Town Council in early June.

He said: "I don't know what the outcome of that discussion will be, but councillors will care about how it will blend in and then there will be questions on what material will be used for the bridge and what colour it is. The green is a good choice and I think there could be the possibility of including some glass.

"What I think people might have a problem with is if it were a big, grey bridge, the sort you see over the motorway. I think councillors would question that.

"Councillors are very aware about how much people care about their natural environment, footpaths, and bridleways, and this will be at the forefront of our minds when looking at the detail."

Central Bedfordshire Councillor, Dr Hayley Whitaker, said: "The new level crossing design has come out, and I can't lie, it's just a bit ugly. It's far bigger than anyone anticipated - about nine to ten metres high and about 400 metres long.

"It's not something you can easily mask with trees. Although you could potentially have some public art nearby.

"It also increases the distance that people have to walk to cross the railway by just less than a mile."

Cllr Whitaker noted that concerns have been raised about the construction process, too, including whether access to the site will cause too much traffic down Furzenhall Road.

She was also worried about the potential noise levels created by piling, informing the newspaper that some overnight work would be needed between 9pm on Fridays to 9am on Saturdays.

Cllr Whitaker continued: "The Lindsells Level Crossing is one of the most dangerous in the UK, and the idea of creating a new crossing that's safer is really positive.

"But the driver for this seems to be the plans afoot to build new homes nearby, and the scale is something that's really taken people by surprise.

"People are increasingly concerned that it will be a blot on the landscape; it's about how we can make it fit in."

Councillor Kevin Collins, Executive Member for Planning and Regeneration at Central Bedfordshire Council said: ‘’In Biggleswade, up to 3,000 new homes could be built in the next 15 years. The proposal to replace Lindsells level crossing with a bridge will help improve safety and connectivity in the area for existing and new residents. I would encourage local residents to submit their views on the proposed bridge through the planning application consultation.’’

Nadine Blakemore, Sponsor for Network Rail; added: “This crossing is used by pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, so it’s important that any bridge design enables access for all of these user groups, and these requirements dictate the size of the structure. We remain committed to keeping the community up to date with our plans and working closely with Central Bedfordshire Council and other partners on this vital scheme.”

The planning application is available to view online - search for application number 21/02168