National Highways ordered to submit retrospective planning application for another bridge infill

National Highways ordered to submit retrospective planning application for another bridge infill

National Highways has just over a month to submit a retrospective planning application to retain infill under a 175-year-old bridge in Yorkshire.

In an email seen by NC, Selby District Council confirms National Highways “has been asked to submit a full application to keep the works” on the Rudgate Road Bridge. The council has set a January 27 deadline for submitting the application, according to the email.

The Victoria structure has been filled with emergency powers known as Class Q Permitted Development Rights, allowing National Highways to undertake temporary construction work without planning permission “to prevent harm to the public”.

However, the stipulations attached to the Urban and Landscape Planning (Generally Authorized Development) Act add that the developer must ensure that “all buildings, equipment, machinery, structures and installations authorized by Class Q are removed […] on or before the end of the 12-month period commencing on the date on which development began”.

The law adds that after 12 months the land must be “reverted to its pre-development condition” unless “otherwise agreed in writing between the local planning authority and the developer”.

It is the same powers that were used to fill the Great Musgrave Bridge in Cumbria, prompting a nationwide backlash and eventual pause in the National Highways bridge filling programme.

In this case, Eden District Council also directed National Highways to submit a retrospective planning application, which was ultimately rejected by Council. Subsequently, National Highways was ordered to remove the backfill at Great Musgrave.

The Rudgate Road Bridge, built in 1846, spans the disused Harrogate-Church Fenton railway line.

It is part of the Historical Railways Estate managed by National Highways on behalf of the DfT, which includes 3,100 bridges, tunnels and viaducts, including 77 listed structures.

As revealed by NC Earlier this month, backfill was completed in April 2021 based on a capacity assessment conducted in 2018 – three years before the work took place.

Hélène Rossiter, director of National Highways’ Historical Railways Estate program, said the backfill was done because the bridge posed a “risk to public safety.”

She added: “When the work was initially undertaken we consulted with the local authority who confirmed that they had no objections or comments regarding the programme.

“Following our recent approach with the local authority to ensure a common understanding of the most appropriate course of action in relation to any remaining formal consents that may be required, we are discussing options including obtaining planning permission to retain the works at Rudgate Road Ridge to ensure the public and structure remain safe.”

However, activists claim that basing the work on a 2018 report does not constitute an “emergency”. They also point out that the findings of the 2018 report do not justify a replenishment.

Paul Taylor, Senior Associate at Richard Buxton Solicitors, said: “National Highways have relied on approved development rights that permit certain types of work to be carried out without a planning permit application.”

He added: “On the Rudgate Bridge, National Highways claimed that it was entitled to rely on approved development rights that apply in the event of an emergency.

“Regardless of whether it was actually an emergency or not, these rights are not intended for permanent work. Thus, if a landfill has been carried out, the land must be restored to its previous condition within 12 months of the commencement of work unless the local planning authority has received written residency or an application has been made and residency is granted. “

The bridge is one of four structures being filled in by National Highways that activists from the HRE group say have “questionable legal status.” The three other bridges are in West Norfolk, London and Essex.

HRE Group spokesman Graeme Bickerdike said: “The value of legacy infrastructure is increasing as we develop safer active travel routes – encouraging people to exercise and connect on both foot and bike – and the impact of the address rising inflation, making new structures less and less affordable.

“We need to take care of what we already have and not do the kind of damage that inevitably comes with transporting large amounts of quarry material and dumping it in often sensitive landscapes.”

A spokesman for Selby District Council added: “As a local planning authority we are continuing to investigate this matter. We have been in contact with National Highways and their engineers for more information and dialogue about the work on the Rudgate Road Bridge. We are reviewing what permits, if any, are required, including the possible submission of a subsequent planning application.”

National Highways has previously said it will cost up to £431,000 to remove the infill at Great Musgrave.

After the Great Musgrave fallout, National Highways developed a new method to assess abandoned railroad bridges and tunnels under its control. The new way of working will see decisions on major works planned for the historic railway estate being reviewed in collaboration with experts from the heritage, environmental and active travel sectors who have been selected to form a stakeholder advisory forum.

The forum includes DfT, Sustrans, Railway Paths, Railway Heritage Trust, The HRE Group, Heritage Railway Association, Natural England, Historic England (which also represents Cadw), Historic Scotland and ADEPT.

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