St.Erth Parish Council, at it’s Ordinary meeting of the 6th August considered an application by Network Rail to remove and replace the exsisting Grade 2 Listed Pedestrian Footbridge at St.Erth Station.
This is our Response:
PA13/05874: Application for Listed Building Consent: Erection of pedestrian footbridge
(including removal of existing footbridge) and associated works; and
PA13/06144: Application for Prior Approval for the Erection of pedestrian footbridge
(including removal of existing footbridge) and associated works: St Erth Station, Station
Approach: Network Rail
St Erth Parish Council finds the plans for the replacement footbridge a very disappointing proposal which is entirely out of keeping with the existing station and strongly recommends refusal. We make the following comments in support of that recommendation:
The ramps in particular are offensive in many ways: they are visually intrusive; and have (of necessity) an excessive length.They would destroy much of the copse on the north side of the railway line and present a formidable visual (and psychological) obstacle on the south side.
The length of the ramps total over 255 meters, over a quarter of a kilometre from platform to platform, which is a prohibitive distance for those like the infirm, the elderly and children who are not in wheelchairs. Carers and helpers would find this unrelenting walk a great trial.
Many visitors on day trips would be obliged to walk twice this distance, out and back, in addition to their walk around St Ives. Because of the bridge’s size, there is no way that its bulk and the length of its ramps can be ameliorated visually – with planting for instance.
There are no other stations in Cornwall with this sort of ramp, as most stations have car parks on each side of the station, just as St Erth will have when the new Transport Interchange is built. We suggest that all the disabled parking spaces be laid out in the north car park for ease of access. Adequate signage will be required.
The literal and utilitarian style of the bridge’s structure is extremely unimaginative; it has not a jot of joy or interest and stands abruptly next to the Grade 2 listed building like a bullying and boorish intruder. The ‘design’ vaguely suggests the existing bridge but that reference, like the suggested roofing profile matching the existing bridge’s roofing profile, is entirely spurious, as the old bridge will have been demolished.
It does not even have the merit of its own interesting design. The structural materials are very basic with no intrinsic visual interest and the corporate finish of white and blue is, like the structure, dull and joyless. The comment has been made that this structure would be more at home in Alton Towers rather than in a Grade 2 Listed Railway Station.
3. Lifts – or lack thereof
The excuse of not incorporating lifts is very feeble. There are many buildings across Cornwall that have lifts and we request that Network Rail and Atkins look again at the suppliers and costings for a lift-equipped bridge. We see lifts as an essential and civilised element in the design and function of the bridge, for the ease and comfort of visitors – ramps as a substitute will not do.
The Department for Transport’s ‘Accessible Train Stations’ literature regarding designs for disabled use says that a maximum of two hours from entrapment in a lift is ‘tolerable’ and that station staff with the necessary skills should be available to release trapped passengers.
We presume, therefore, that the time taken to arrange for someone with the skills to come from Plymouth should be within that time frame, though naturally, someone nearer would be better and surely there are lift engineers that can be engaged in this area anyway?
St Erth Station, the travelling public and the parish deserve much better than this. We would like to see a complete redraw of the structure, eliminating the ramps, and incorporating lifts in a well-designed structure that would merit positive comments, not approbation.
4. Points for further consideration
4.1 Getting the balance right
The Parish Council believes it is necessary to seek the best possible solutions between the modern convenience of visitors with the equally important desire to ensure the survival of original features.
This is especially true when this station’s architecture is so well-known and loved for adding greatly to the overall satisfaction of the visitor experience, being also at the ‘gateway’ to two of the most important tourist areas in the south-west – Penzance/Penwith and St. Ives.
The bridge is Grade 2 Listed as part of a greater whole (the station buildings are Listed in their entirety) which cannot but be compromised with the demolition and removal of the original covered pedestrian bridge and which lie on a railway line, so important for its historic significance, that UNESCO are considering it as a World Heritage Site.
4.2 Proposed demolition of existing covered pedestrian footbridge
Firstly the whole site is designated Grade II Listed and with this removal would in one fell swoop completely alter if not destroy the total character of the whole, it being an integral part and compromise this important Grade II Listed status. It is very much at the centre of the original design and of the traveller/passenger experience, both local and visitor. The aesthetics of one of the most well-recognised prettiest and, so far, unspoilt stations (including the much appreciated volunteer-kept and we believe, award-winning flowerbeds, would also vanish in place of the proposed new mega-bridge) would change forever.
One would think that Network Rail should actually value and treasure rather than destroy this as a visitor attraction (people do actually come and visit St Erth station primarily for its unaltered old features and architecture) in situ and a fine example of station architecture in its complete manifestation from Brunel’s time and his overall vision for the design of the line.
One of the criteria mentioned in the proposal for consideration as a World Heritage Site states that ‘The GWR was and still is one railway company and this above all else has enabled it to maintain its distinctive character’. We suggest this is completely reflected in all of St Erth Station’s original architectural features – so to remove one integral part of it (one end is even joined to the platform buildings), at a station that has in its entirety so far retained this distinctive character in its buildings for over 150 years, would be inexcusable.
4.3 Proposed construction of second bridge
There are at least three alternatives to the unnecessarily huge, over-engineered, airport-style-designed and totally out of character bridge that has been proposed and need to be seriously considered as far better options:
Firstly, there is the option of a light-controlled crossing that has worked at Hayle or a supervised/gated level crossing;
Secondly, there is the option of a structure used at other stations that can be folded out across one platform to the other; and
Thirdly, there is the possibly best all round option of a bridge with lifts, being available at all times for both the disabled and passengers with heavy bags, but which should only be placed at the eastern end of the platforms, still being convenient and close to both and the St. Ives platform, but far enough away to not detract from the original overall cohesive aesthetic/visual impact that the current station buildings present and have retained unchanged since inception, and should maintain as Grade II Listed, ensuring that any demolition of anything that has been Grade II Listed is completely avoided.
With all these options there would be site-suitable and disabled-convenient provision and the Listed bridge, more than fit for purpose for the majority of passengers, could be retained in its entirety and in its current position and the surrounding architecture unspoilt.
This would be further enhanced for all with the construction of the proposed new south and north car parks by Cornwall Council at the station that should have designated disabled spaces on both sides. All these options though are possible and should be considered first and as far superior to the proposed plans.
We also suggest that it would be good if English Heritage could get together with Network Rail and find a way where disabled rights and heritage can work side by side, as may have been done similarly elsewhere.
Thank you for your consideration of all these points which we trust are helpful.
Clerk to the Council
Mr Martin Jose
Planning, Housing and Regeneration Service