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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Fences to stay around disused Carlisle railway viaduct

Steel security fences that keep people off Carlisle’s disused Waverley railway viaduct can stay for another two years, city councillors say.

Waverley Bridge photo
Waverley Bridge in Carlisle

Their decision has frustrated campaigners who want the viaduct to be re-opened as a pedestrian crossing of the River Eden, linking the Cumberland Infirmary to Etterby and Stainton.

British Rail Board Residuary (BRB), which is responsible for the Grade II-listed structure, put up the fences in 2009 as a temporary measure to stop vandalism. It reapplied in 2011 to keep them for another three years but was given only one year by the council.

When that consent expired in December, British Rail asked for a further three years.

Planning officers recommended that it should be given another 12 months in the hope that, in the meantime, a trust might take over the viaduct and reopen it.

Councillors meeting yesterday opted for two years, with the proviso that the barriers can come down sooner if agreement to reopen the viaduct is reached.

Conservative Ray Bloxham said the graffiti-covered steel barriers “were an absolute eyesore and a disgrace”.

But Labour’s Donald Cape said they were there for a good reason.

He added: “I don’t want to be responsible, as a member of this committee, to have somebody walk across and drop off the side of the viaduct.”

Planning officer Stephen Daniel said the council had held talks with BRB, which was prepared to lease the viaduct to a trust who would take responsibility for the parapets, footpath and waterproofing.

However, before that could happen other issues had to be resolved.

Mr Daniel said: “There is no right of way across the bridge and, if you did cross it, you can’t get off at the northern side without trespassing on someone’s land.”

More than 2,400 people signed a petition in 2010 calling for the viaduct to be reopened.

The council received 44 objections to BRB’s latest planning application. Three of the objectors addressed the development control committee in person.

Retired lawyer Richard Bain said the viaduct had been a “mothballed white elephant” since the barriers went up.

And David Ramshaw, who set up www.savethewaverleyviaduct.co.uk, said afterwards that BRB should have been given 12 months and ordered to make good the viaduct’s parapets, which would make re-opening it straightforward once access issues were sorted out.

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