Council leader demands stop to Barcombe bridge destruction

The Leader of Lewes District Council has written to Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, demanding the "full and unequivocal cessation" of the infill policy that threatens historic railway bridges, most notably for Lewes district, the bridge in Church Road, Barcombe.

The letter from Councillor Zoe Nicholson is in response to the actions of Highways England to push ahead with plans to infill or demolish much loved local landmarks, including the bridge in Barcombe - despite the government supposedly calling a halt to the policy earlier this year.

Councillor Nicholson said: "The government claimed to have put a stop on this deeply unpopular policy, yet in Barcombe there is clear evidence that Highways England is riding roughshod over any apparent pause in the programme and stealthily pushing ahead using their all-encompassing emergency powers, causing unnecessary destruction to nature and the countryside.

"I have asked the Secretary of State to urgently confirm a full and unequivocal cessation of the policy that leaves Highways England in no doubt whatsoever that they must stop and review their approach."

The bridge in Barcombe was built in the late 1800s as part of a railway line between Lewes and East Grinstead. While the railway hasn't been used for decades, there is a belief in many quarters that it could one day be reopened. It is currently a popular route for local walkers and a haven for wildlife that use the disused line as a safe corridor across the countryside in that area.

Councillor Stephen Gauntlett, Cabinet Member for Planning, said: "We are told that an initial assessment of the bridge has been carried out by Highways England and that they believe it is dangerous. If that is the case, the next appropriate step is to organise the necessary propping and remedial works to the bridge that can allow a more comprehensive survey to be undertaken and a full analysis of those findings.

"It is the very least that should be done when such an historic and important local landmark shows signs of its great age.

"This country has a proud reputation of preserving the structures, landscapes and rich heritage that form the backdrop to hundreds of years of English history. I hope the Secretary of State has that legacy in mind when he responds to the deep upset caused by Highways England in Barcombe."