Aug 2021 – South Downs, Hampshire.

Highways England has found itself embroiled in yet another row over a planned bridge infilling project. Engineers, transport planners and the local authority have all hit out at Highways England’s proposal to infill a 156-year-old disused rail bridge in the South Downs National Park. The chief executive of the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) labelled the plans to infill Stoke Road bridge as “vandalism”, while a spokesperson for the HRE Group accused Highways England of acting like “cowboys and bullies”. In April 2020, the SDNPA ordered Highways England to apply for planning permission for the work. However, the roads body subsequently decided that it would carry out the infilling under permitted NATIONAL NEWS development rights which allow temporary works to be carried out without planning permission in emergency situations presenting a serious threat of death or injury. This was confirmed in a letter to MPs on July 19 this year. However, Highways England director of the Historic Railway Estate Richard Marshall confirmed that the planned works have now been “put on hold” after the government intervened. The SDNPA and HRE group alike object to the assumption that the Stoke Road bridge is a serious risk to the public.