Historic bridge to stay - for now

AN appeal by Network Rail for permission to demolish an historic railway bridge in the centre of Whaley Bridge has been turned down.

The application, originally refused by High Peak Borough Council in March last year, was for the removal of Bridge 42, a Grade II listed structure.

The cast iron bridge, which dates from the 1860s, crosses the A5004 at Buxton Road, right in the centre of the town.

Network Rail wants to replace it as it has been assessed as structurally defective. They do not believe an effective and guaranteed cast iron repair could be confidently achieved.

They also want to be able to increase capacity on the line and the amount of freight traffic that can use the route, which is currently limited due to the restrictions on speed and weight limits placed on the bridge.

The main issue for the appeal was whether replacement of the existing bridge was justified on safety grounds and, if not, whether the harm due to the loss of the bridge would be outweighed by other substantial public benefits.

Dismissing the appeal, Planning Inspector Brendan Lyons said: “In this instance, the case has not been made either on grounds of safety or of other public benefits to justify immediate replacement of the bridge.”

Seven areas of the structure are classed as poor with the most serious a crack in an arch. The precise extent of this crack, first noted in 2002, can not be plotted, but it has not increased since active monitoring began in 2009.

However the inspector said it cannot be assumed that the condition of the bridge will allow present levels of usage to continue indefinitely.

He said, in his report: “In the absence of evidence of immediate safety concern that prevents operation of the rail line or poses an urgent risk to rail and road users, and of a full exploration of the potential to strengthen the existing structure to address longer term safety issues, there is insufficient justification to support consent for removal of the bridge on safety grounds.”